Anatomy of a Trespass Grow: Millions of Gallons of Water, Tons of Trash, and Poisons

map (1)In 2015 law enforcement discovered a complex of four large marijuana grows on Deer Lick Creek in Trinity County. From evidence found at the scene, law enforcement determined that the growers had trespassed on public land for years. Officers from various agencies helped remove over 9000 plants from that year but many more had been grown in previous years. Evidence from the site shows that the growers applied pesticides, rodenticides, and insecticides. Black pipe snaking down mountains conveyed an estimated 8.1 million gallons of water onto the plants and away from the Trinity River in 2015 alone.6af1c825-6526-4621-a047-f1b8f7dc6dbf

Roosevelt Elk, black-tailed deer, black bear, fishers, and the Northern Spotted owl live in the area. Coho and steelhead swim in the waters there.

A campsite full of food that could entice in wildlife also contains multiple pounds of rodenticide and pesticides.

On Tuesday, May 24, the final cleanup of the campsite was completed. Removed from the site were

  • 13 pounds of pesticide
  •  256 gallons of usable insecticide
  • 7,350 lbs of infrastructure (now trash.)
  •  27,093 ft (5.13 miles) of black pipe

Trash being cleared from the site.

Local scientists, Drs. Mourad Gabriel and Greta Wengert, offer an overview of the impact of this trespass grow below.

Northern California is home to numerous wildlife species which are dependent on the unique critical habitat attributes that public lands within this bioregion provide. Some species of conservation concern that inhabit this region include Northern Spotted Owls, fishers, and Coho salmon. It is also home to numerous terrestrial big game species including black-tailed deer, American black bear and elk.

Therefore, in addition to non-game wildlife benefits this area offers, game species are reliant on the large tracts of public lands in order to sustain viable populations for both natural resource and recreation use benefits. Specifically, all three Roosevelt Elk ( Cervus canadensis roosevelti ) hunt zones are located within this area. Unfortunately, northern California is also experiencing a sizeable amount of clandestine marijuana cultivation on public lands, much of it entrenched in prime elk habitat.

These illegal cultivation sites on public lands have a long list of deleterious impacts towards natural resources upon which many wildlife species are dependent. They divert large amounts of water, fragment landscapes in order to cultivate marijuana plants, and contaminate native plants, soil and water resources with either legal or illegal pesticides not intended for use in remote forested areas.

Finally, due to the clandestine nature of this activity, armed growers occupy many of these sites for several months who in turn poach and maliciously poison wildlife.

For example, in 2015, Integral Ecology Research Center (IERC) and Law Enforcement agencies discovered several black-tailed deer does and bucks that were illegally harvested or poisoned at grow sites. In addition to deer poaching, IERC research staff documented several black bears and non-game species like gray foxes maliciously poisoned. Occurrences of fawns bedded down in contaminated plots or deer illegally snared were also common and frequently documented. Finally, remote camera systems have detected numerous game species browsing within cultivation plots, raising the question of the potential contamination risks these sites may pose towards human-harvested game.

In 2015, a large multi-year public land trespass marijuana cultivation complex named Deer Lick Grow was discovered on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest managed by the United States Forest Service

. Law Enforcement teams eradicated over 9,000 marijuana plants within the 2015 cultivation plots, and several nearby historical plots were also discovered. This site is situated in occupied Roosevelt elk habitat within the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Marble Mountain Elk Hunt Zone. For this zone, CDFW allocated 52 tags in 2015 (either sex, muzzleloader, antlerless and bull) for which 2,061 applicants applied. The success rate for these tags is significantly high with bull, antlerless and either sex having a 50% success rate and muzzleloaders 100% success.

One standalone factor for much of this success is the public land access for hunters using their public lands. However, this emerging clandestine and dangerous activity of marijuana cultivation on public lands poses a novel risk to not only hunters who want to enjoy a safe hunting experience, but to game species like elk that may either be poached or contaminated through the large amounts of toxicants used at these sites.

Wildlife Species at Risk from Deer Lick Complex

This complex is located in USFWS critical habitat for the threatened Northern Spotted Owl, occupied habitat for fishers and is also a refugia for state and federally listed salmon species like coho and steelhead. The complex also overlaps habitat occupied by several big game species such as Roosevelt Elk, black-tailed deer and black bear.

e6ed6609-81bd-4572-9046-adb1a29d7af0Deer Lick Springs Reclamation Synopsis

Organizations Involved

Governmental: California Department of Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Division (CDFW­ LED), Trinity County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO),California Army National Guard (CANG), U.S. Forest Service, and Hoopa Tribe.

Non-Governmental: Integral Ecology Research Center (IERC), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), The Watershed Center (TWC), Trinity County Resource Conservation District (TCRCD), Douglas City Volunteer Fire, and Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI)

Reclamation Organizers: Drs. Mourad Gabriel and Greta Wengert (IERC); Warden Brenden Lynch (CDFW-LED); Detective Nathanial S. Trujillo (TCSO); Tom Evans (TWC); Donna Rupp (TCRCD)

Support: Logistical and financial support was contributed by the above-mentioned entities. Specific funding for the reclamation of this trespass marijuana cultivation complex was provided by The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and a Section 6 grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Integral Ecology Research Center.

Number of trespass sites cleaned: 1complex with four large satellite sites

Location of sites: Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Watershed impacted: Trinity River

Personnel: 33 total;TCRCD(6), Hoopa (5), RMEF (4), CANG (4), IERC (4), TWC (3), TCSO (3),
CDFW-LED (3), SPI (1)

Total water diversion restored to watersheds: 8.1 million gallons (per grow season)

Total amount of fertilizer used at sites: Unknown

Total amount of rodenticide used at sites: 13 pounds Insecticide used at sites: 256 gallons of usable insecticide (Figure 3) Grow site infrastructure removed: 7,350 lbs (3.67 tons) (Figure 4) Irrigation pipe removed: 27,093 ft (5.13 miles) (Figure 4)

Long-line loads: 21 loads (7 nets and 14 cobiners at an average of 350 pounds each)

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  • That is just disgusting! Trashing our wildlands has to stop! Stupid growers!

    • The music worm in my ear

      What will happen in Humboldt/Mendocino Countries in five years. “Its only just begun”

      “Colorado Springs

      Local authorities in Pueblo, just 40 miles south of Colorado Springs, were recently alerted by a vigilant resident to a possible illegal marijuana grow operation. Within days, on March 31, sheriff’s deputies from the Special Investigations Narcotics Section raided a single-family home that was in the process of being converted into a “grow house.” Authorities discovered 127 marijuana plants, over $100,000 in growing equipment, and two Cuban nationals.

      At first, no one seemed to take particular note of the individuals, Adriel Trujillo Daniel, 28, and Leosbel Ledesma Quintana, 41, who had recently moved to Colorado from Florida. They were arrested on felony drug charges but local authorities initially believed it was an isolated event.

      But in the span of the next week and a half, local authorities would arrest at least four more individuals in the Pueblo area in similar cases, with similar backgrounds. All were recent transplants to the state. All were reported by neighbors or by other Pueblo residents who had witnessed suspicious activity. All were transforming residential homes into elaborate marijuana grow operations. And all were Cuban nationals.

      “We have quite a bit of evidence” to believe they are members of “Cuban cartels,” Pueblo sheriff Kirk Taylor says in an interview.

      Local, state, and federal officials believe it’s not just isolated to Pueblo. “It’s across the entire state of Colorado,” DEA assistant special agent in charge Kevin Merrill says. “It’s just basically taken over the state, these residential grows.”

      Merrill likens the danger to that of meth labs in homes. Besides the criminal element, turning a house into a greenhouse invariably destroys the home. “The destruction of the homes and neighborhoods is even greater.”

      It is what Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers calls “the total nightmare” scenario, a byproduct of the state’s recent legalization of first medicinal, and later recreational, marijuana.

      People from out of town or even foreign countries move to Colorado and “buy or lease houses by the hundreds if not thousands,” explains Suthers, who previously served 10 years as attorney general of the state.

      The new residents then convert the residential homes to industrial grow operations. They’re “basically trashing the houses because they’re making so much freaking money they don’t care, and growing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of plants in each house. And transporting it out of state to marijuana markets nationally and internationally. Literally. Marijuana is going back to Mexico from Colorado,” asserts Suthers.

      This criminal activity undermines a key argument used for legalizing marijuana in the first place. “One of the big arguments was, we’re going to get the cartels out of the marijuana business. Because we’re going to have all these legitimate businesses selling it. The Mexican cartels are going to dry up and go away,” he says.

      But now things are different. “Mexican cartels are no longer sending marijuana into Colorado, they’re now growing it in Colorado and sending it back to Mexico and every place else.””

      • Sleepy Alligator

        “Merrill likens the danger to that in meth labs”….”buy or lease houses by the hundreds if not thousands”…..”new residents then convert the residential homes into industrial grow operations”….& this is my favorite….”they’re now growing it in Colorado and sending it back to Mexico”

        So do you believe everything you read? Ever hear of propaganda?

  • Stories such as this make me proud that I gave up the habit nearly fifteen years ago. As an ex-user, my actions no longer support this sort of thing, which will only continue until society’s appetite abates. And, since I don’t see this happening any time soon, it’s just the way it is. All of this stuff, trashed wildlands, hashish labs blowing up, robbery, murder, ad nauseum, show that marijuana users are no better than methamphetamine users, as much as many of the fomer like to think of themselves as morally superior.

    • Sleepy Alligator

      What “all of this” really shows is that the illegality of marijuana is detrimental to our environment, our wildlife, our water, etc. The slime who set up grows like this are laughing, as they count their stacks, at the Americans inability to think outside the box and realize they’ve been duped by their government into believing that “the war on drugs” is working. That same government who is also counting the stacks that they profit by keeping pot illegal. Growing and smoking pot will always exist, no matter what! The only way we will never see stories like this one is to legalize 100% from coast to coast.

      • Spot On! The social, economic and political bigotry aimed at the Herb, and the pile-on by cops, politicians and lawyers, did this. Criminalization = Profit. (And lots and lots of employment.) This chicken just came home to roost. af PS: BERNIE!

    • Dear Holier-Than-Thou JOHN: Rarely have I read an opinion about this as deeply flawed as yours. The Quantum Leaps in your reasoning are breath-taking. I’d recommend some sites for you to learn from, but I think an education on the topic would be lost on you, and I’d be wasting my breath. af

    • That’s a broad brush John! Read a little about prohibition and why it was repealed in the end. See any similarities?

    • sharpen your pencil

      If your scared go to church. Atleast that’s what snoop and cube say. Judging by the complete lack of any knowledge in your comment I’m guessing your a church goer. Why, oh why are you twits so far behind the ball, it is running out of control. Thanks to asshats like you, the Reagans, and tricky Dick we are faced with the issue at hand.

      Prohibition worked so well from you bible thumpers, didn’t it? Just the same as it isn’t working now on weed. Only difference is we have all these illegals coming here to rape our national forests, as well as a police force more concerned with busting people with property and toys. Which trespass grows contain none of, however the environmental impact of these same grows are far worse than that of your typical grower in the triangle. Atleast growers with a property can call a water truck or have wells dug, these trespass grows just simply build a damn, all these idiots looking for greenhouses because they are easier to spot from the sky than full sun grows….. WAKE UP PEOPLE!

  • Disgusting mess and cleaned up with our tax dollars.

  • Does illegal immigration have any-role in this problem?
    I’d like to hear more about our failing immigration laws and how they are affecting our public lands and flooding drugs/crime into our streets. Is this not a part of the massive problem?

    • Good question! They blame farmers and citizens of over populating ca’s sensitive water resources, then they bring in refugees by the thousands. They blame landowners of being greedy pot growers, ruining the rivers & creeks, complain of over population, then allow foreigners to drove in by the numbers.
      Regulations, taxes, & unemployment sky rocket.
      Something fishy here.

    • Not if the arrest warrants issued are for three white guys. When it comes to greed and money the bad guys come in all races and nationalities. And it has only just begun………………….. There wasn’t a parking spot that could be found in a three block radius of the County Planning Office. I will bet most of the permit money will go to law enforcement budgets. Tax revenues to reclamation and environmental clean up.

  • The methicans did it

    • A closer look at the trash would tell for sure…bean cans, tortilla bags, corona bottles etc. (i can see a couple Jose Cuervo bottles in there.) They are definitely big on chemicals & poisons too.

  • I live near this site, I was out and about last year when the raid was going down. No one was caught….about 4 days later some Hispanics came walking out of the woods looking for water/food. I sent them towards the ranger station.

  • If pot were legal people would grow on their own land and not on public land.

  • Some people have no honor and must be resisted.

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