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Totally Wasted! Pot Growers Leave Trash Behind In CA Woodlands

Large-scale pot farmers in Mendocino, CA are trashing the countryside, leaving behind toxic chemicals and piles of garbage.  But a group of volunteers is working to clean it up.

Camp sites near illegal marijuana farms in Mendocino County. Credit: Robert Townsend / California Watch

Braving ticks, dust, treacherous terrain and possibly armed thugs, dedicated members of the Northern California Wildlands Reclamation Coalition (NCWRC) are cleaning up a piece of the California woodlands left totally toasted by local marijuana growers.

Growing pot, it seems, is a very dirty business.

The organization was formed when a group of Mendocino residents banded together with a desire to repair the damage inflicted by illegal marijuana farms.  The group’s aim is to return the area’s forests to their natural state, and leave the woodlands as pristine as possible.

A container of strychnine found at one site. Photo credit: Robert Townsend/California Watch

After law enforcement has cleared an area of growers and plants, the NCWRC moves in to take inventory of the mountain of debris left behind.  They usually find items like camping gear, batteries, drug paraphernalia and propane tanks.  They’ve retrieved weapons such as hand guns, BB guns and assorted ammunition, as well as a crossbow.  They have also found many types of poisons––from fertilizers to pesticides ––that can pose serious dangers to wildlife and humans.

After the initial assessment, the group collects and sorts any environmental hazards, garbage and recyclables and puts them into contractor bags and cargo nets that will later be airlifted by helicopter to an undisclosed location–– for (ahem) obvious reasons.

Typically, the group removes between 1 and 5 contractor bags per site, each weighing about 150 pounds.  At one particular site, more than 800 lbs of irrigation tubing and pipes was removed.  Everything that can’t be airlifted out by helicopter is loaded onto a truck and taken away for recycling and charitable donation.

The environmental impact of illegal pot growing has been severe.  According to a USA Today article, growers routinely plant in crudely terraced hillsides that quicken erosion.  They frequently spill pesticides, fertilizer and diesel fuel used to power generators, and they dam creeks to use as water sources.  There have been reports of growers pouring fertilizer right into a stream, then irrigating directly from it, a practice that has long-reaching environmental impact.  Clean-up teams have even found disfigured trees along with tons of garbage, human waste and litter.

The fact that these dedicated volunteers are willing to go in and clean up after all this mayhem is not only noteworthy, it’s downright spectacular.  I’m getting a buzz just thinking about it.

Via California Watch

About Sebrina Zerkus Smith

Professional writer, foodie. Lupus survivor. Loves pugs, wine, days at the beach and good movies. Takes recycling seriously, but not much else. Sebrina Zerkus Smith is a Southern Gal that has been scratching the writer’s itch for nearly 30 years. Her career began in Washington, D.C., in 1987, fresh out of collage and full of ideals. While plying her trade by day on congressional reps and senators, at night she burned the candle writing features for local newspapers and national magazines. She quickly realized that her southern upbringing gave her a unique and humorous voice that resonated with her readers. Eventually, she moved to Los Angeles where she pursued her dream of becoming a novelist and screenwriter. She paid her bills by working as a freelance writer for major marketing projects from studios such as CBS, NBC and Disney. Realizing that the future of writing lay with the internet, she was bitten by the blogging bug back in the 90’s, back before it was even called “blogging.” Then it was still just writing and trying to make a living. Through those early blogging years, Sebrina found passion and purpose. Over the past 10 years she has written articles for clients such as LightCues.com, MatterMore.com, Greenopolis, MacAddict, Yahoo, CNN and more. Today, Sebrina writes about a variety of topics including the Southern Experience, sustainability, clean water, food, gardening, sleep and her obsession with pugs. She is a regular paid contributor to WildOats.com as well as other entities. She now lives in Houston with her husband Jeff and their pug Newton. She hopes one day to complete her opus, Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed.

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