Marijuana Crops in California Threaten Forests and Wildlife

from the NY Times here (thanks to Mark Milligan for posting on the SAF LinkedIn site>

Below is an excerpt.

Scott Bauer, of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said, “I went out on a site yesterday where there was an active water diversion providing water to 15 different groups of people or individuals,” many of them growers. “The stream is going to dry up this year.”

While it is hard to find data on such an industry, Anthony Silvaggio, a sociology lecturer at Humboldt State University, pointed to anecdotal evidence in a Google Earth virtual “flyover” he made of the industrial farm plots and the damage they cause. The video was later enhanced and distributed by Mother Jones magazine.

Brad Job’s territory as a federal Bureau of Land Management officer includes public lands favored, he said, by Mexican drug cartels whose environmental practices are the most destructive. “The watershed was already lying on the ground bleeding,” Mr. Job said. “The people who divert water in the summer are kicking it in the stomach.”

That water is crucial to restoring local runs of imperiled Coho salmon, Chinook salmon and steelhead, which swam up Eel River tributaries by the tens of thousands before the logging era. Scott Greacen, executive director of Friends of the Eel River, said, “It’s not weed that drove the Coho to the brink of extinction, but it may kick it over the edge.” By various estimates, each plant needs at least one gallon and as much as six gallons of water during a season.

The idea that the counterculture’s crop of choice is bad for the environment has gone down hard here. Marijuana is an economic staple, particularly in Humboldt County’s rural southern end, called SoHum. Jennifer Budwig, the vice president of a local bank, estimated last year that marijuana infused more than $415 million into the county’s annual economic activity, one-quarter of the total.

For the professed hippies who moved here decades ago, marijuana farming combines defiance of society’s strictures, shared communal values and a steady income. “Marijuana has had a framework that started in the 1930s with jazz musicians,” said Gregg Gold, a psychology professor at Humboldt State University. “It’s a cultural icon of resistance to authority.”

“In 2013,” he added, “you’re asking that we reframe it in people’s minds as just another agribusiness. That’s a huge shift.”

Don’t forget that there’s a solution.. only buy marijuana sourced from Colorado and Washington. It’s only a matter of time before organic and sustainable certification…maybe FSC could develop a sideline?

2 thoughts on “Marijuana Crops in California Threaten Forests and Wildlife”

  1. Even if they legalize it in CA, the vast amount is shipped out of state and will continue to be since prices are much higher in places like SD.

    The rap I heard in S Humboldt about it just being raised for medical uses was hysterical. And the legalization ballot measure lost big time in Humboldt and Mendocino counties since those struggling growers wanted to keep the prices up.

    The grower population includes a wide spectrum but in recent years my friends there tell me that the amount being grown in S humboldt had quadrupled. More of the recent ones are not the enviro hippies. Matter of fact, many of those old hippies do not like that scene at all and looked forward to some being busted. What was once a minor operation to support homesteaders on a small to moderate income has morphed into something else entirely.

    Although I had many decent friends growing, I much disliked many others with their money grubbing habits. I did not like living there, dull conversations and a lousy work ethic amongst too many since growing was far more lucrative than any enviro work,

    And sucking too much water out of streams was bad for fish, the feds might jump on that problem although it seems intractable.

    More research needs to be done on how to water those plants most efficiently. The NYT article is flat out wrong about the amount used per plant, it is much more. I heard estimates of 7 to 30 g/day for mature plants. Who knows, not as if we could do a survey to get better data.

    • Hi Greg: These people should not be referred to as “homesteaders.” Many of them operate on federal lands that belong to the public and have been closed to homesteading for many years. Maybe now, with legal “medical” facilities, some of these people pay some taxes — but I’m guessing not too much and not too many. The real environmental problems, as described here, including introducing poisons into the local wildlife food chains, using enormous amounts of public water for irrigation, and serving as furtive and unhealthy “half-way” houses for illegal immigrants.

      I prefer actual citizens managing native plants and animals on our public lands and paying all applicable fees and taxes on agricultural products grown there and on private lands. Platte County, Missouri, for example, was famed as the “hemp growing capitol” of the United States since shortly after its creation in the 1830s — and landowners began following state and county regulations and paying taxes from the beginning. Why is Humboldt County getting a pass on all of these things? And why have these growers traditionally and vehemently opposed logging and applications of forest herbicides near their “grows?” Because they are “environmentalists?”


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