In Defense of the Stars: The Use of “Mixed-light” Greenhouses Is Changing our Night Skies and May Be Altering our Nocturnal Ecology

The following piece is a guest article by Kyle Keegan. The numbers refer to citations at the end of the post.

Dark skies can be viewed as an imperiled resource, not unlike ancient forests and wild and scenic rivers. Until recently, rural Southern Humboldt served as one of the last great nocturnal landscapes in our state; star-lit skies sheltered by the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and the ruggedness of our inter coastal mountains—a rare and special place where locals and visitors alike could view our planet’s solar system unmolested by the excessive glow of nearby cities.

The current trend of “light-assisted” or “mixed-light” greenhouses in Southern Humboldt is rapidly changing our night environment, stealing our dark skies. The experiment of illuminating our watersheds might seem like a benign form of pollution in comparison to other documented impacts associated with the cannabis industry, but an increasing body of scientific knowledge tells us that altering the day/night cycles of environments can have a profound effect on the physiology of human and nonhuman species, as well as ecological systems.5,7,8

(Looking south from Elk Ridge into the Mattole watershed. Two years ago, this area was mostly black at night. As of 2016, the skyglow of this sub basin in early spring now rivals Garberville. Photo was taken two days before the new moon in May 2016. [Photo by Kyle Keegan]

(Looking south from Elk Ridge into the Mattole watershed. Two years ago, this area was mostly black at night. As of 2016, the skyglow of this sub basin in early spring now rivals Garberville. Photo was taken two days before the new moon in May 2016. [Photo by Kyle Keegan]

Light pollution is now being considered as one of the hidden drivers of biodiversity loss and in recent years has garnered the interest of scientists worldwide. (See here and here.)4,7Aside from being unneighborly and disrespectful, the severity of light pollution being imposed on our communities far exceeds being a visual “nuisance.” Disrupting the circadian rhythms of our watersheds must be recognized as a serious environmental threat. (The “circadian rhythm” is an approximately 24-hour day/night cycle that governs the biological processes of all life on Earth, including humans.)

Light from a neighbor’s greenhouse obscures the night sky as seen through the window of one rural cabin. [Photo provided anonymously]

Given how rapid the changes are occurring in our communities amidst the continued growth of the cannabis industry, it is essential that we collectively act to prevent uncovered, illuminated greenhouses from becoming more widespread.Most scientific studies involving light pollution have focused on the light spectrums utilized in urban and suburban areas. It is important to consider that the impacts of artificial light at night in the Emerald Triangle region may be amplified by the intensity and spectrum of the grow lights being used as well as the ability of greenhouse fabrics to scatter light in all directions.. Current scientific studies may not reflect the severity of our local problem.
This photo was taken on the new moon in May 2016. It shows the cumulative skyglow of several lit-up greenhouses (on the other side of the ridge) reflecting off of cloud cover. [Photo by Kyle Keegan]

This photo was taken on May 27th, 2016, at 11pm looking N/NE from Elk Ridge towards Myer’s Flat. The ambient orange glow to the left is assumed to be Myer’s Flat and vicinity and possibly some cumulative light from the Weott area? The bright blue/white light on the right is from a single cannabis factory and appears to be meeting or exceeding the skyglow of Myer’s Flat. The bright blue/white light in dead center is one of the largest greenhouses to be viewed from Elk Ridge and some nights (depending on the cloud cover) dominates the northeastern night sky. It is estimated that this greenhouse is about 20 miles away from the photo point. All other nearby lights are uncovered greenhouses. [Photo by Melissa Walbridge ]

Artificial light that escapes into the surrounding night environment has the potential to create an unnatural stimulus that can affect the orientation, metabolism, reproduction, competition, and predation of both nocturnal and diurnal animals and insects.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 The spectrum of lights that are utilized to “trick” cannabis plants into growing at a different rhythm than existing natural cycles inside a greenhouse may have the ability to alter the growth cycles of plant communities in the surrounding areas outside a greenhouse.
This photo was taken at 11:15pm, May 27th, 2016 from Elk Ridge looking due south. It is clear to see in this photo how the incursion of light from one factory can affect the day/night cycle of a large area. The greenhouses below in the valley shine like sports stadiums. Luckily, as summer solstice approaches many of the greenhouses shut down for a few months before starting up again in the fall. [Photo by Melissa Walbridge]

This photo was taken at 11:15 p.m., May 27th, 2016 from Elk Ridge looking due south. It is clear in this photo how the incursion of light from one factory can affect the day/night cycle of a large area. The greenhouses below in the valley shine like sports stadiums. Luckily, as summer solstice approaches many of the greenhouses shut down for a few months before starting up again in the fall. [Photo by Melissa Walbridge]

Light-assisted greenhouses have the capacity to affect an area much larger than the surrounding property depending on the size and number of the greenhouses, the type and intensity of the lights being used, the cloud cover present, and the topography of the area. Cloud cover can serve as an amplifier, increasing the effect of “sky glow,” as well as concentrating the dispersal of horizontal ambient light. A large cannabis factory (or multiple small factories) can illuminate areas of a watershed similarly to, or exceeding the light emissions radiating from a small town. Here is a site that allows us to view the light pollution for our area. Click on the “Bing Map (hybrid) overlays” and check the changes from 2010-2016. Most of the new light pollution sources for Southern Humboldt appear to be illuminated greenhouses.This site uses NOAA/EOG overlays to asses light pollution via satellite images from 2010 to 2016.  Below, in the top screenshot from the site, you can see light pollution radiating from our small towns as would be expected. (Keep in mind that the amount of light accessing the satellites changes given the cloud cover present.) Looking west from HWY 101 in 2010 there are no visual signs of light pollution. These were once some of our best dark skies for star viewing. In the lower image (2016) you can see several new sources of light pollution. By using the link to zoom in closer, one can see that most (if not all) of these appear to be light-assisted greenhouses. Some of which are emitting light intensities that are greater than adjacent towns. In this area, twenty to thirty “black-out” tarps could completely eliminate this problem overnight.
Kyle light 1

This screenshot from 2010 shows that the main source of light mostly came from towns. (Note: Though the site cautions that “[d]ata from 2010 and 2014/2015/2016 is not comparable” for our purposes a comparison between no light in an area and light in subsequent years is helpful.)

Kyle light 2

This screenshot from 2016 (from a composite created between March 1 and March 31) shows that a single greenhouse can give off more light than an entire small town. Notice the size of the light glow from Miranda and that of greenhouses in the area.

The energy required to sustain this new light-assisted greenhouse phenomenon has created another diesel fuel delivery boom in our watersheds. Thus, coupled with light pollution is the increased potential for diesel spills, carbon emissions, sound pollution, and the heightened risk of wildfires from generators.

Not so long ago it was in the best interest of a grower to be discreet. The current absence of discretion that allows commercial cannabis production to alter the nocturnal environment of communities is a glaring example of an industry whose scale has exceeded the capacity of state and local regulation and enforcement.

The new County Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance (CMMLUO) allows for up to ½ acre of mixed-light cannabis cultivation. If the county does not follow through with regulatory oversight and enforcement, our watersheds face further threats from this (and other) forms of environmental pollution. In the words of Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennel regarding uncovered greenhouses at night, “Every single one of these greenhouses is operating outside the CMMLUO.” What remains to be seen is if the county (and all of us together) care enough to no longer enable offenders who aim to maximize production and profits regardless of the cost to our shared environment.

Outlaw communities that have traditionally practiced an “oath of silence” by refusing to report environmental crimes have now become the fertile grounds for outside interests looking to parasitize these “safe havens” that have been created. It is becoming increasingly clear that the silence of the past has now left communities feeling disempowered and hopeless as recent complaints filed with local and state authorities regarding large-scale environmental degradation go unanswered. Have we reached the point of no-return where the power of our local mono-economy reigns over the health and safety of our communities? 

Potential Solutions: The first and most obvious solution is for farmers to consider growing cannabis within the Earth’s natural daylight cycles. Is it not possible to compete in the market without the multiple harvests provided by mixed-light cultivation? Do growers really need to use this light-assisted technology to produce quality cannabis?

For cultivators that feel reliant on mixed-light production, the use of “black-out tarps” to keep light from escaping is undeniably the answer. Education on this part of the solution must become the moral imperative of our local garden supply stores. When the sales of grow lights are made, the slogan might be “If you’re going to light-it-up—cover-it-up.”

In preparing for a legal future, it is in the best interest of cannabis farmers to recognize the seriousness of these light pollution impacts and take action to form a public awareness campaign to educate growers. In this way, farmers and collectives can continue on the path to building trust with local and state agencies, environmental groups, local government, and community.

For those looking to find their niche market in the “Humboldt Artisans” arena, emphasis needs to be put on the value of growing within the Earth’s natural photoperiods.

This will require cannabis consumers to be educated on the difference between a product that embodies a large carbon footprint (indoor and mixed-light cannabis) compared to a low-impact product grown within the natural cycles of the sun. We need a “Slow-weed movement” if a future legal industry plans to truly walk the sustainable cannabis talk.

We can all contact our local supervisors and ask when the enforcement of the new “CMMLUO” guidelines is going to take place. Perhaps of most importance is to call or talk directly with our neighbors (new or old) and request that they cover their illuminated greenhouses at night.

Light pollution might seem like yet another inevitable loss as our watersheds succumb to industrialization imposed by the cannabis industry. But unlike many of the other forms of land degradation we are experiencing, this one has a simple solution and can be changed quickly with persistent education and vigilant public pressure. “If you’re going to light-it-up—cover-it-up.”

Kyle light

Sign on a bulletin board in Southern Humboldt.


  1. Artificial Night Lighting Affects Dawn Song, Extra-Pair Siring Success, and Lay Date in Songbirds Source: Current Biology, 16 September 2010, Volume 20, Issue 19, pages 1735-1739. 10.1016/j.cub.2010.08.028.
  2. Artificial light at night advances avian reproductive physiology Davide Dominoni, Michael Quetting, Jesko Partecke, Proceedings of the Royal Society, February 2013
  3.  Artificial light at night causes diapause inhibition and sex-specific life history changes in a moth, Koert G. Van Geffen, Roy H.A Van Grunsven, Ecology and Evolution, 2014
  4. Conserving energy at a cost to biodiversity? Impacts of LED lighting on bats, Emma L. Stone, Gareth Jones, Stephen Harris, Global Change Biology, 2012
  5. Ecological consequences of Artificial Night Lighting, Island Press, 2006
  6. Street lighting changes the composition of invertebrate communities, Thomas W. Davies, Jonathan Bennie, Kevin J. Gaston, Biology Letters, 2012
  7. The dark side of light at night: physiological, epidemiological, and ecological consequences, Kristen J. Navara, Randy Nelson, June 2007, Journal of Pineal Research
  8.  The ecological impacts of nightime light pollution: a mechanistic appraisal, Kevin J. Gaston, Jonathan Bennie, Thomas W. Davies, John Hopkins, Biological reviews, 2013
  9. Physiology of plant responses to artificial lighting. Ecological Consequences of Artificial Night Lighting (eds C. Rich & T. Longcore),Briggs, W.R. (2006) pp. 389–412. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA.


  • The Humboldt Commercial Cannabis Cultivation ordinance requires compliance with International Dark Sky standards, which essentially say no artifical light can escape the parcel, upwards or outwards. Anyone getting county permission to grow will have to meet these standards. Enforcement, as the article notes, is key.

    • “Enforcement”?…. Where.

      This is the collateral damage that we are going to suffer until jobs come back. People have to make a living. Some don’t want to be on welfare. If we treat marijuana growers like we did loggers we will simply kill and drive away a complete industry.

      Growers are going to have develop and live within accepted standards, and enforce them or die like logging. We need to LEARN from history or become a sad part of it.

      Over-taxing will be the largest detriment to getting the growers to comply. If over-taxed there will be an even worse under-ground industry. Similar to the growers supposedly growing “medicine”.

      • the misadventures of bunjee

        Unfortunately, those same folks that want to make a living want to do it at $100 an hour, not $15 an hour. Nobody ever made $100 an hour working at the mills, even with inflation to today’s wages. They’re not going to give that up so easily.

        • Shut them down! We all hate that bullshit in our homeland. When’s enough enough? Selfish greed rush parasites go back where you came from! where were all you little bitches during the real days?

      • Use the Locals on patrol! They love police and supervisor work and it “looks like disrespect” to me! beat the glow out of the hills lops, starting at your own places first!

    • That’s nice Ed, what about the thousands of growers not getting County permission to grow? You know, the ones that don’t give a damn about their neighbors, all they give a damn about is their enterprise. “Legalize and Regulate” was the mantra of everyone wanting to see an end to bad actors growing irresponseably and things haven’t gotten better, they’ve gotten worse . On the cusp of legalization WHERE IS REGULATION ??? WHO IS SUPPOSED TO BE ENFORCING IT? WHERE ARE THEY? Where is the Water Resources folks? Haven’t heard anything about their endeavors, besides the fact than rather than comply folks just moved on to other parcels to grow. There has been a steady daily parade of soil and greenhouse makings going by on my small rural road for 3 months straight now. I can’t even venture a guess at how many new greenhouse/ deps went up this year. WHERE IS REGULATION ENFORCEMENT??? This is a friggin joke. Thank you for this article , Kyle.


      • Triniboldticino

        First thing that popped into my mind when I read the headline. All that work on light dep anyway, lazy fucks.

  • I didn’t see it mentioned in the article but Humboldt has wording in the ordinance that states that there shall be no light leaks from sunset to sunrise. I believe it is complaint driven so if you can’t talk your neighbors into covering up at night, talk to the county and they supposedly will inspect the site and give the offender ten days to remedy their situation. There is also a provision for generator noise, no louder than 60db as measured from the property line. Let’s take back our county from these greedy, disrespectful growers!

    • People need to shed the stigma of calling the authorities on this issue. As the article states , the bad actors are using the fact that most of us don’t like ratting people out. They are using our good neighborly ways against us. It’s time to turn the tables, this hostile takeover needs to end .

    • veterans friend

      From sunset to sunrise? So no more backyard barbeques eh?

      • I guess I should have been more specific…no light leaks from any greenhouse that has artificial light augmentation.

      • the misadventures of bunjee

        The glow from a BBQ, even a large pit BBQ is nothing compared to racks of thousand-watt bulbs. I’d much rather savor the scent of a hot meal being prepared. These guys have all day and all sorts of time to cover things up. Make it happen.

  • Excellent article. Ed, we’re glad to hear that was taken into consideration in the county ordinance. This is a real issue, too.

  • C’mon people, cover that crap up. Don’t make yourself a target any more than you already are. Don’t make the valleys look like oilfields. Y’all have enough money and people working for you to remedy that issue. Make your projects blend into nature already.

  • “Not so long ago it was in the best interest of a grower to be discrete.” Typo: Discreet. A well-done article: paper for a class? Good job!

    • I remember when people used to tarp their soil before leaving the grow store. No longer.

        • In what sense would the second (“discrete”) be correct? I’m thinking of growers being all chopped up into separate little morsels… don’t think it would help them a bit. The words have nothing in common. Think of “discrete” as the opposite of “concrete”: one means separate parts in different places, one means separate things all joined together into a hard solid piece.
          “Discreet,” of which “discretion” is a form, means using good judgment in not being flashy or overdoing it–that is, not attracting attention. Always a good idea to use your discretion and not advertise.

          • Oh oh, Ernie reads this and does not like nit-picky arguments over spelling and grammar. I apologize, Ernie… should have been more discreet with my opinions!

            • Ernie Branscomb

              Great, now I’m the nit-picky police. Humorous! It’s funny how things will turn around and bite you.

              I was raised around some very intelligent and wise people that were also poorly educated. It pained me to see their sometimes great thoughts interupted by educated idiots that could have learned something if they hadn’t been so busy pointing out how educated that they were.

              Of course, present educated company excepted. Accepted?

              • I have the same sense that sometimes educated people use grammar and spelling to dismiss ideas that they don’t have the intelligence to see. That said…I do appreciate folks letting me know gently when I’ve made a mistake so I can fix it.

                • Ernie Branscomb

                  I think that we all strive to present our great thoughts smoothly and intelligently. I also think that we can clearly see when “corrections” are mean spirited. Laura Cooskey’s eruditions are never mean.

  • Wow newcomers!? Ever heard of covering with a black tarp? Sure you have! Well it blocks light both ways! Be a good neighbor and use you head. Thank you.. Simple!

  • Elk Ridge Resident

    Thank you Kyle for making this effort, and thanks Kym for putting it out there. Unfortunately, the only cycles these diesel dopers care about are their cash flow cycles – nothing, and nobody else matters to them. When I try and say anything to any of these “neighbors” about it, I’m told, “This is Humboldt.” They only see Humboldt as a place to crank out pot production. It’s astounding to me how deaf, dumb and blind to everything else Humboldt still has to offer they are.

  • That was stupid. This would only affect nocturnal life if we had greenhouses right next to each other east west north and south with no space between them. And we could get closer to that, maybe once weed is legalized and corporate enters the picture.

    Keep weed Illegal!!!

    • The statement that it would only effect nocturnal life if there were solid blocks of greenhouses is an assumption. Kyle’s argument is being made from a self educated place supported by studies (which are sited) that prove that. Knocking the truth of it because you haven’t read or witnessed any effects of high powered light pockets in otherwise dark zones doesn’t mean it isn’t happening and/or isn’t studdied and documented.

      There are problems with the laws as written, and there are problems with the unconcerned nature in which it is being produced currently in our neighborhoods inorder that it may be brought to market at ecologically “tricked” out ways and dates for personnaly economically beneficial ways. Call stupidity what you will but it seems like greed and arrogence to some who share the resources of this planet with awareness of the leggless, many legged and rooted creatures that live just beyond our fences and gardens. The corperate fuel of this plannet is being micro-mimicked in our hills – keeping it illegal isn’t going to make the same practices less impactful – tarping the greed will minimize some of the problem.

      • [edit] clearly we are a hell of a lot better then the glows of major city’s, and even small city’s. With the amount of greenhouses we have there is plenty space for a nocturnal animal to move to a dark area. So your saying in city’s there’s no nocturnal life because of light your wrong. There’s still life that moves about at night even in the big city they adapt.

  • veterans friend

    That “ambient orange glow” is NOT Myers Flat. A gross assumption. Nice try

    • Been to Myersflat lately? It glows like the day time.

      • veterans friend

        I live here. Everyone I know covers up. And this is really stupid anyway. Every town has streetlights. Everyone has outdoor lighting. Drive down 101 you can see house lights (outdoors) everywhere. It is a little late to bitch about light pollution… the whole world is aglow, or haven’t you noticed?

        • Did you compare the light from one greenhouse to entire towns? The light from one of the greenhouse is much bigger in most cases than most of the small towns in SoHum. There are a lot of small homes west of Miranda for instance. They don’t show up on the light pollution map but follow the map down into an area of light pollution and you will find a greenhouse on every single place I looked.

        • The whole world is not aglow. The paths that we lazy two legged creatures have paved for our wheeled speed are aglow. Our insanity and detachment from the things that thrive in the dark might have us under hypnosis that the whole thing is aglow. The paths that follow and flow near water and resources that feed our personal growth and “betterment” are aglow – and now our plastic gardens are aglow….. a glowing symbol that our greed and dillusion has gotten out of ballance and it is all the more reason to fight for an awareness that the first picture was mere moments ago in ecological reality.

          PLEASE PEOPLE; Go for a walk away from the beaten path and the lighted, animated hypnotism boxes that you stare at. Th color sensing receptor cone cells in your eyes dominate because you are used to the light. It takes 30 minutes for the light sensitive rod cells in your eyes to fully adjust to lack of light – and then you will see. The dark side isn’t without intricacy of life and beauty – it is just unfamiliar to most of our habits. Natural light and dark patterns of the seasons are essential for some of the flowering of life and reproductive habits of many beings that have evolved without our technilogical influences. Go for a walk in the dark and please remember it in the light of the days ahead, the influence of complacency is like walking death in otherwise living humans.

  • Everything is temporary. First it was gold, then timber and fishing, next cannabis. Gavin Newsom & Jerry Brown are in bed with BIG AG. You think they care about Humboldt County? LOL. BIG AG has dollar signs in their eyes and weed grows great in the Central Valley.

  • Get out much?

    There is soooo much dark sky in the majority of the north state, beyond the authors limited view that SoHum is/was the “last, great nocturnal landscapes” in the state.

    Stupids in every industry exist.

    There are lots of issues to tackle, being matter of fact and leaving personal opinions out of journalism will help.

    This issue deserves a close, objective looksy though.

    • Conservation First!

      Does is matter that other areas are darker? Do you think the Lost Coast is not special? Everywhere that is rural should be as dark as possible. We all have a responsibility to do this and to help others understand the need.

  • We have been diligent asking/nagging neighbors about covering their greenhouse lights and most are polite and comply. There is no reason to put up with this bullshit~! Just ask the neighbors. Petrolia needs to make a serious effort to ‘KEEP PETROLIA DARK.”

  • The third photo down looks like a long exposure shot because of the quality of the number and sharpness of the stars. It also highlights even weak fluorescent lights.
    Someone I heard coined the term “glow worms” to describe them.
    When the idea was first proposed to me I suggested at least using the AM side of night to compile the necessary daylight hours as fewer people would end up seeing it.
    Using dep plastic for the bumping cycle would of course mitigate the light issue.
    I wonder if in town streetlights or outside lighting is capable of stopping the flowering cycle.

    • The sharp pin points of the stars indicates the time exposure was probably in the range of 15 seconds depending on the camera model and lens. If you go much longer the stars begin to blur and leave trails as the earth rotates.

      • That is true, unless you tracked the stars, in which case the landscape would blur.
        They are fantastic photos of the night sky.

    • veterans friend

      My neighbors once complained to me that my BEDROOM light was messing with their bloom cycle. LOL

  • I assume there are good reasons for the large amount of light around the Eel River Con. Camp.

  • Excellent article…
    I would highly encourage every property owner who have had their citizen and property rights violated to contact their elected officials so there will be more of an effort to stop the intentions of pumping dollars into the state and local coffers; but instead work towards protecting our property rights.

  • This is an excellent, well written and thoroughly referenced article. Hat’s off to you. I am the Technical Director of The International Dark Sky Association. You are doing well to notify the area of the problem. It can easily spin out of control by more and more unshielded greenhouses entering the area. One need only to look at Belgium as a “don’t let this happen to you” situation. Most of us have seen the fascinating image of the world at night. Belgium is easy to spot as it is the brightest country on the map, and the reason is unshielded greenhouses. Regulations were sought, but only single greenhouses were scrutinized as potential for problems. The collective number were not, and the proliferation has led them to be the poster child of indoor sourced light pollution on the planet.
    The fact that laws are on the books mandating shielding is great; the lack of enforcement is typical. As a condition of approval, this should solve the problem. Give the non-compliant growers 30 days to get into compliance or cut the power. The cover should be mylar on a retractable rail. The reflection can go back to the plants and the output from the source can be decreased giving energy savings while maintaining illuminance levels. The system should be very cost effective.
    Another intriguing concept is eco-friendly product, grown by sunlight and natural, seasonal photoperiod. This is inspired. I’d love to see some tests comparing THC and CBD production of natural vs artificially lighted grown product. Measured carbon footprint of natural vs artificial can also be utilized for product selection.
    To get enforcement initiated, gather like minded folks and speak with a unified voice at council meetings. Coming with proposals for solutions greatly increases the likelihood of action.

    Again, well done.

  • Thank you, Kyle, for telling it like it is. Again.

    And thanks to Kim for posting this.

  • DumDumDumb...Dumb

    Easy pickings for the authorities, all they need is a flyover or satellite imagery, match coordinates with parcel.. boom .. enforced

  • Nightlight-Causes-Cancer

    It has long been known that night light suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy. But melatonin also slows or suppresses the growth of cancer. So light polution at night can stimulate the growth of cancer. Just google ” night light, melatonin, cancer” and you will find many articles referring to research on this topic.

  • And I'm a Deadhead!

    Talk all you want but the only thing that will make the situation better is actual, real enforcement by our agencies that are already being paid to do the job but refuse. Where is the friggin’ sheriff? Why does he have no policy to address any out-of-control grows? It’s not hard! They are very easy to find and they don’t hide or move around! Just drive out there and cut down the plants. Boom! They lost their profit and that is all they care about. Don’t have to waste resources processing arrests or prosecution. Just chop it down. Oh- is that too hard? Our county has been run over by a-holes and greed growers because we let it happen. Cut the plants down. Destroy their profit incentive and behavior will change.

    • Your cut and run plan has been used by law enforcement for some time. Most people busted are present when the raid occurs. However law enforcement has not had the money and manpower to handle the known grows for years and years and as fewer and fewer % of growers got busted, more and more came in. . In 2015 Sheriff Downey estimated he would be able to investigate slightly more than 1% of the known grows. He’s got more money now thanks to Measure Z income, and so has hired more deputies. I believe he is going to focus on growers who are not in the licensing process. I say “in the licensing process” because it takes a long time to get a license. They’ ve been working on it since 26 Feb 2016 and not one license has yet been issued, and many probably will not be until late in the season, if then.

      • It might help if the focus of the cut and run enforcement team was to return to said properties and do it again when 2-4 weeks later there is a full REplant in place. AND/OR if the fines instated were worth more than pennies to the growers and might even refuel the neccessary erradication funds . . . If the penalty was something that scared the second, third, fourth and fifth largest grower in the watershed you might not see them all put in another garden or greenhouse the next year.

  • What’s next, I can’t leave the lights in my house on all night???! Piss Off.

  • I Hate Marijuana

    Thank you for this article. Another reason to take back our community from these outsider growers who are killing our environment.

  • Downy is the worst sheriff .we need a Gung no nonsense . Straight up do something policing. When was the last time the sheriff office busted cank dealers ,and heroin dealer . I personally don’t remember when. EPD pop ,has done more than the sheriff office .it’s simple,you bust the low level dealers and work your way up the chain duh.I don’t think we even have s narcotic devision .lame downy should have that one alone .what do we pay enept downy for what a waste of tax payers mony .hopefully that joke gets replaced soon pot is the last thing he needs to worry about meth, and heroin busting that should be dick head downy first priority

  • As I understand it, the enforcement under the new ordinance would lie with the Planning Department, if they are registered and from current stats, less than 1% are. Code Enforcement, one guy and a part time county attorney, would handle those sites not registered. Having dealt with Code Enforcement, while they try hard and do their best, but one typical case can take months to resolve. And those who think the Water Board will solve it, don’t hold your breath. And while I give Kym kudos for printing this, unless the community bands together and says enough is enough, no longer looks the other way or buries its head in the sand, nothing is going to happen.

    • Years Pass things Change

      In terms of “community” there’s $20 million dollar land deals happening right now. This place is a canabbis investors dream. So with that said, sadly, your way of thinking might be the community minority. Get it?
      Times have changed.

      • I doubt that investment is going to pay off we will be here to by that cheap land that will be foreclosed on and full of tax leans .

  • Yeah, it’s not hard to cover it up. Good thing is it’s only till we have enough daylight which we do now so there really isn’t any reason to be running greenhouse lights anymore or at least till the early fall for those who try to get that last moldy run.

  • They are not all outsiders doing this, most of them are your friends and neighbors useless, lazy, entitled children and grandchildren. The same ones who think their 100 ft hoops have no impact, because they’re organic. Next year, every fucking one in Eburg that isn’t covered will be shot to pieces, legal, medical, or not.

  • 7 watt red or blue LED light will keep a plant in grow used outside a greenhouse is bareley noticible.inside a greenhouse it puts out a fraction of the light pollution.
    simple sollutions work well sometimes

  • Congratulation on a superb article Kyle! And thanks to Melissa Walbridge for the excellent night photography that perfectly illustrates the issue.

    My viewshed incorporates the northern portion of the Mattole River valley. Before this year there was not one artificial light at night in my panoramic view that goes from Saddle Mountain and looks past Honeydew. Now there are constant lights burning past midnight dotting the ridges. On nights with not too heavy fog vapor in the atmosphere the light from the greenhouses is caught and refracted in the lower atmosphere and even more greenhouses I can’t see on a clear air night shoot up an alien glow in the mists.

    None of those spots I see are on the PG&E grid, so that means we’re back to diesel doping with a Godzilla sized carbon footprint that far offsets the carbon sequestered in the thousands of plants, the large diesel trucks that haul the dirt (and sometimes water), the acres of plastic and aluminum that go into constructing the greenhouses and the chemical nutrients they use.

    Why? And for what? Pure greed from people who operate with a corporate mindset, virtually free from any consequences for their actions. Their priority is money first and to hell with the community they are raping to get it. They really don’t care about the land, the community, sick people, or great marijuana—just how many pounds of mass produced MacWeed for the masses they can suck out of the Emerald Triangle for the lowest dollar investment. Well fuck their bleak corporate hearts all to hell.

  • How about we put out an article on the bulgarian mafia here intimidating people .Machine guns death threats ,People selling there land in fear for their life …………….WTF

    • Get me first hand witnesses and I’ll gladly put that story out. My email is [email protected].

      • Try treats at 7 am you can interview a bunch of them .They will be the ones on the sidewalk smoking the big cigars . Also contact blue star gas there drivers have story’s to tell about armed gas deliveries .Rancho has a group that fired machine guns for 3 hrs straight one night . The ones in the mattole have clear cut ton’s of forest no one has shown up .Downey is afraid of them that’s why he won’t do anything .There is also a crew of them in briceland. That guy that went of the road for 5 days was one of them ask what hes doing here

    • The US Attorney’s office might be looking into the Bulgarian Mafia….

    • Quote-“How about we put out an article on the bulgarian mafia here intimidating people .Machine guns death threats ,People selling there land in fear for their life …………….WTF”

      Why on earth would someone not call the Sheriff’s Dept. and get a restraining order if this where true? I would in a hot second and bring it to their attention. Also if there is a restraining order they’d have to relingquish their guns.

    • Funny, thats what people say who have heard some second hand story. Every encounter I have had with them has been just fine. Infact in my 20 years of being a timber worker all throughout Humboldt the scariest people I have encountered have always been white-tweeker-rednecks. Im not sure how it works, but the Bulgarians are like the Dread Pirate Roberts. Sleep tight, they will surly kill you in the morning!

  • Seems to me that all of you peace love dope smoken hippies have over look the obvious. The real issue or maybe you just don’t care, like most of the pot growers, is how the light is being made!! I’m sure those big gen sets don’t run on water!!! Weeds not the only think going up in smoke! Some of those little valleys must look like the Bay Area at rush hour for weeks at a time not to mention the noise.So much for environmental friendly practices!! ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS THE MONEY!!!!!!

  • While I agree that talking to your neighbors is the best first step and that the grower supply businesses and enviro orgs could/should be doing a lot to educate (and sell more cover/blackout tarps), I think that letting the County know that many citizens are concerned (about any part /all of it – unpermitted grading, water diversion, in addition to light issues) is another important tool to take action towards slowing the environmental degradation that has accelerated so amazingly these last few years and months. Even if County Planning dept/Code Enforcement is “overloaded” right now – documenting the extent of the violations is always a key element for moving bureaucracies and educating elected officials. So – I’will try to attach the simple one page form for Complaint of Possible Code Violation that can be submitted to the County Planning (Development) department. The name of the “complainant” is confidential unless the resolution of the complaint somehow ends up court. I hope you’ll consider joining me in taking whatever small steps we can – talking to neighbors, supply vendors, etc – to slow down this mega-grow boom and all of its tragic consequences.

  • hereforthetreesnottheweed

    Hopefully it won’t be an issue soon. It will not be economically viable to do anything other than natural light outdoor weed as the price is going to plummet when it all goes legal. Gonna snap me up a nice growdozer for cheap when the douche nozzles go back to LA .

  • While I agree that talking to your neighbors is the best first step and that the grower supply businesses and enviro orgs could/should be doing a lot to educate (and sell more cover/blackout tarps), I think that letting the County know that many citizens are concerned (about any part /all of it – unpermitted grading, water diversion, in addition to light issues) is another important tool to take action towards slowing the environmental degradation that has accelerated so amazingly these last few years and months. Even if County Planning dept/Code Enforcement is “overloaded” right now – documenting the extent of the violations is always a key element for moving bureaucracies and educating elected officials.

    So – I’m attaching the form for Complaint of Possible Code Violation that can be submitted to the County Planning (Development) department. (Click here to go to the form)

    The name of the “complainant” is confidential unless the resolution of the complaint somehow ends up court.

    I hope you’ll consider joining me in taking whatever small steps we can – talking to neighbors, supply vendors, etc – to slow down this mega-grow boom and all of its tragic consequences.

  • Another problem with these was found after the lightning last summer, where firefighters lost lots of time responding to these glows that werent fires, only to have to backtrack to real fires…

    • Still happens all the time. Multiple times greenhouses have been reported as fires but it turns out they are just brightly lit and uncovered.

  • Does sun valley floral still light up the bottoms? No mention of it here, perhaps they stopped.

  • when i moved to town 15 years ago, you could see the band of the milky way any night the sky was clear. now its a vague haze at best. light and noise pollution are just as important an issue to those of us who can only afford to live in town. our countys supervisors are selling us out to developers. also, the amount of clearcutting by logging corporations on that map is horrifying. if that kind of damage happened on a yearly basis because of ganja growing, people would rightly be in prison.

    if all this to do about rural marijuana growing pisses you off, as it rightly should, spend as much time writing the federal government to decriminalize cannabis across the board. all related abuses would disappear overnight. pitting neighbor against neighbor during this era of prohibition is a shame in itself.

  • As long as I have been on the east half of Elk Ridge light from both Redway and Garberville as well as the Con Camp have illuminated the sky.
    In addition to that there is sound pollution that carries all the way to the ridge from 101.
    Something about the grade going over the hill to Benbow that causes traffic noise to travel a very long way.
    Those on the other side must be unaccustomed to the sight of light pollution or sound pollution.

  • Ok, one more comment. You on the east side of Bear Buttes, you might want to tone it down a bit.
    Those aren’t fluorescence that is for sure.

  • The County seems to be waiting for a large expected income from permits to begin enforcement.. This is the first time the County has had the opportunity to profit from marijuana cultivation since the property confiscation days.. I’m sure the sharp pencil folks there have developed some happy projections.. Fish and Wildlife has not responded to many complaints and should be questioned as to their enforcement policy.. The Water Board is still processing permits from the earliest applications.. Enforcement is non existent at this point and the new big growers brag about their staff of lawyers.. It is a situation wide open to the possibility of government corruption..
    For those who see large scale pot operations as financially unstable, go look at Sun Valley Bulb Farm, in Arcata.. They are profitably growing lilies in that huge operation.. Imagine how much pot could be grown there and be assured that business is looking at huge greenhouses, fenced with concertina wire and perhaps dogs… The demand after legalization will be far more than the current demand.. Much bigger money than the Bulgarians is waiting in the wings.. Keep in mind that the State knows that a few large corporate grows will be much easier to track and tax than hundreds of smaller ones.. They will regulate with that objective.. It’s a whole new world out there and when enforcement funds appear.. Watch out.!

  • I grew in the sierra foothills for 30 years. NO greenhouse, NO lights.
    You who do so are unsustainable!!!! Not sure if there is a way for this completely
    unconscious greed to be curbed. good luck.

    • I think a lot of this behavior is fueled by competition envy. If a grower only has a measly 5 100ft greenhouses and his friend has 10, then the other grower has to have 10 too. If you notice the growing trends snowball as the competition heats up. For instance , now every grower is hauling around a trailer. Oh, it doesn’t matter if the load can be put in the bed of the truck, a trailer is a mandatory accoutrement and they haul them around empty most of the time and never unhitch. They bang past on my road all day. Growers- you guys look hilarious. I can’t wait till cooperate weed takes over and all these posers get the hell out of here, that’s my hope anyways.

  • What an amazingly written article. Thanks to all involved. These kind of publications impact a place we all love. I hope to see this awarded and republished everywhere it is an issue. Also, thank you to the commenter Mr. Strasser. Your imput was excellent, and translating an ethical issue into profit is the quickest way to bring change. Bravo sir.

  • Thanks Kym, well written article, again! I definitely feel for those impacted all around the County, and in particular southern Humboldt. Unfortunately, for the most part, we are all responsible for this situation, and all the impacts we are seeing to our environment. Water quality- fertilizers being dumped into waterways leading to increase algae blooms; illegal rodenticides killing threatened and endangered species, air quality impacts from generators running all hours; soil impacts/erosion from illegally developed grow sites and roads, on and on.

    We as a community are responsible for letting the word get out 10-15 years ago with the election of a DA (Gallegos) that was inept and catering to growers. Check it, that is when things started to go off the hook on the grow scene. Once the word got out that Humboldt was a “groovy” place to grow large blown up gardens, and if you got caught maybe a slap on the wrist but maximum a plea bargain, the young punks showed up.

    Community has continued to romanticize the growing of marijuana, and neighbors turned a blind eye to the large grows, because they did not want to contact the “man” (law enforcement) to do something about it.

    We are now waking up, albeit too late. The impacts are going to be felt for a long time, and those in the industry or associated with it, will continue to compromise and grow arrogantly, driving at unsafe speeds on the roads with their grow-dozers, and destroying the environment with a catch me if you can screw you I am getting mine attitude.

    Bust these growers, call the “man”, do it!

  • Is it safe to say that the volume of sohum marijuana output, this year, will FAR outshadow production of any previous years?

  • On one hand, I deplore the explosion “light-assisted greenhouse” operations. It seems to be a return to indoor growing and all of the pollution, at a much more egregious rate. But I’m also troubled by the images that accompany the essay.

    Digital and film photographs both depend on light to create the image. The beautiful night sky images in these photos are the result of a relatively long exposure…which results in a significant bump in the “light pollution” shown, because it’s an accumulation of light exposure on the receptor or film, rather than what you would see with your eye.

    Why exaggerate? It weakens the truth of Mr. Keegan’s essay.

    • I had decided that I would not post a comment before I submitted this article due to the mostly anonymous nature of this blog site. But I think that it is only fair to reply to Onlooker’s comment since he/she made an important point.

      You are correct in the inevitable alteration of light levels shown from using a longer exposure time. Capturing the night images as seen by the human eye (any image for that matter) is difficult. All of the images I selected, along with the guidance of family and friends were chosen based on the accuracy and clarity of the image. Many of the photos we took looked completely unnatural and were not used. The first image looking west from Elk Ridge (which to me is the most shocking due to the sheer number of unshielded greenhouses) is the most accurate photo of the series in my opinion. The exposure time was 12 seconds. (Hence the stars that are not visible in the image.)

      The following photos looking N/NE towards Myer’s flat and to the south (Melissa Walbridge’s photos) were taken using a longer exposure time and with a much better camera with a larger sensor. (That’s why the beautiful night sky you mentioned becomes so apparent.) The longer exposure was used because the greenhouses in the front of the image were dominating the camera’s sensor and the largest greenhouses in the distance emitting the most light pollution were not being captured. So in order to capture them all we used a longer exposure time.
      Ironically, the last photo looking due south was the least accurate depicting the amount of light being emitted from a single greenhouse. (It looked more powerful in reality.) That picture had the longest exposure time (about 25 seconds?) which is why the stars are actually blurry due to the Earth’s rotation. No doubt, more practice is needed to get it truly right.

      I think the satellite images showing the explosive growth of light pollution in our areas over the last two years speak for them self. Like Pete Strasser of the Dark Sky Association mentioned, “One need only to look at Belgium as a “don’t let this happen to you” situation. Belgium is easy to spot as it is the brightest country on the map, and the reason is unshielded greenhouses.”

      On topic with your comment about this issue seeming like “a return to indoor growing,” I couldn’t agree more. The use of fossil fuels to fabricate sunlight is a race to the finish lines of diminishing returns (at both a local, economic, and global scale.) This practice highlights how “cultural mimicry” can perpetuate local/global impacts by people adopting methods of production without fully understanding or contemplating the unintended consequences. (And of course, there are the people who might not care regardless.) I think a lot of folks are utilizing this technology without really understanding how it all works.

      Of all of the pollution impacts we could attribute to industrial cannabis production, the social pollution created by the panic of “getting it while you can” appears to be the most damaging. Even growers with high moral standards are feeling pushed to increase production out of fear for their future; a local manifestation of a world wide problem. Thus, the “tragedy of the commons” unfolds.

      Lastly, I wanted to thank everyone (I mean EVERYONE) for their comments, no matter where they stand on this issue. Challenging the behaviors of one’s “tribe” has its downsides. It is not in my interest to be divisive. After living all of my adult life and raising a child in a cannabis growing community I can say that my closest and best friends in life were born into this culture, or chose this culture as their own. They are the people I love and respect. I am just as concerned for their (our) future as the land that we all depend on. Seeing this current story unfolding in our fragile watersheds has brought more tears than expected and the “silence” that I was taught to hold so tightly no longer serves its purpose. Speaking for the land should not be considered a threat.

      We have a lot at stake here. It’s going to take all of us together to save what we can.


      Kyle Keegan

      • Thank you Kyle for your honesty about exposure times. I fell in love with thinking about the whole cosmos a long time ago and easily recognized that they are the kind of long exposure shots that have are used for night sky photography.
        If there is one detail omitted from this it is pointing out that difference between low power lighting and indoor grow lights. The latter being something I used to feel would be far to obnoxious for both rural and urban areas.
        As someone trying to use business sense I would think if you are tarping anyway then why not use high power lighting to provide warmth and intense light. As the dark sky’s guy said they have been doing it for decades and the extra heat and light truly does add an entire growth cycle that would be impossible with simple low watt lighting.

  • Not cool ya bunch of ass hats. Turn them in!

  • Fresno will welcome your light pollution.

    • I personally have no ambition to have Humboldt look like Fresno. I’d like to have the night skies I grew up with to share with my grandchildren.

  • I’m not sure if the article mentioned this. Light stops nocturnal animals from hunting effectively.

  • Excellent article, interesting and mostly thoughtful discussion. You can’t live in the hills here for 49 years without noticing all the changes: physical; societal; economical…
    Thank you Kyle and Kym for putting this important aspect of the current situation out there.

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