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.
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.
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