Illegal cannabis grows on California public lands, known as “trespass grows” constitute one of the leading issues threatening California’s wildlife and communities. Trespass grows, 90% of which are controlled by drug trafficking organizations (DTO’s), contain copious amounts of illegal pesticides, rodenticides and herbicides. These toxicants contaminate water, poison wildlife, and pose a serious threat for wide-spread human exposure. These grows undercut the legal market, place rural and tribal communities at risk and threaten natural resource economies, and undermine the original purpose of our public lands.
Arguably, illegal cannabis production on public lands may be the largest near-term threat to native species, communities, and ecosystems in much of California.
Some species, such as the Humboldt marten and Pacific fisher, are candidate species for ESA listing largely as a function of this illegal activity. Rodenticides are now found in 95% of mountain lions statewide, 85% of fishers are exposed to one or more toxicants, and California spotted owls (ESA listed) have a 70% exposure rate. Biologists conservatively attribute the deaths of many hundreds of predators, including black bears, bobcats, and raptors to banned Bromadiolone and Brodifacoum. Over 40% of water samples showed serious contamination from this activity, with downstream impacts.
Key native fish streams are dewatered to irrigate cannabis grows, accelerating the demise of endangered fish such as coho salmon and steelhead. Benthic invertebrates – the base of the aquatic food chain – show 100% exposure in tested streams near trespass grows. The 320 Sensitive, Threatened and Endangered Species that inhabit California public lands are at immediate risk from the impacts of illegal cannabis production. Lacking regulatory oversight, these grows are a clear and present threat to ecosystems, communities, and users of public land.
The primary goal of CROP is to cut illicit cannabis production on the national forests of northern California. The key objective is to secure funding for the prioritized decommissioning and remediation of up to 2,000 grow sites, along with additional funding to place more rangers on the ground in California’s National Forests. This will effectively reduce exposure rates of toxic pesticides and insecticides to communities downstream or near trespass grows, users of public land, as well as reduce wildlife poisonings.
CROP is a collaboration between CalWild and the Community Governance Partnership.
The CROP project aims to:
- Secure and increase state and federal resources for trespass grow reclamation
- Increase Forest Service law enforcement and overall presence in National Forests
- Implement a statewide public education campaign, focusing on the human health risks associated with ingesting unregulated cannabis
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