Print Page

News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 426

Marijuana trash hauled out of Sierra foothills

The Bureau of Land Management, with a little help from its friends, has taken steps to deter booming marijuana production in the Sierra foothills.

A Blackhawk helicopter from the California Air National Guard hauled out bags of drip tubing, pesticides and trash from remote locations near Moccasin last week, the first such operation for the Mother Lode Field Office.  A total of 1.5 tons, or 3,000 pounds, of accumulated irrigation hose, trash, fertilizer and pesticides were removed. (text continues below)

Men strap together many black trash bags and other trash, as a large helicopter waits on the ground nearby

“This was a cooperative effort with the Tuolumne and Mariposa County Sheriff’s Departments, the Air National Guard, Army National Guard, the U.S. Forest Service, AmeriCorps, California Department of Fish and Game and the National Park Service,” said Mark Petersen, BLM law enforcement ranger for the Mother Lode Field Office.

Irrigation systems and trash were removed from ten grow sites, some used for years. BLM had been removing plants annually for years, but the infrastructure in most of these sites has remained relatively intact. “One rancher remembers finding evidence of marijuana production 15 years ago,” Petersen said. “We’ve removed thousands if not tens of thousands of plants from this area alone. By removing the infrastructure we think we can seriously curb their ability to come back.” (continues below)

A close-up of two men warpping and stapping trash into netting

Marijuana production by organized drug cartels threatens both visitors to public lands and the natural resources, he explained. Growers are often armed, and there have been numerous shootings between law enforcement officers and suspects in recent years. Growers divert water and often mix herbicides and other chemicals in the soil near creeks and watersheds. Growers camping in the woods can and have started forest fires and leave behind large amounts of garbage from live-in camps at the end of the season.

Although Petersen hopes the cleanup project will deter some growers, he realizes it’s not a solution. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

The helicopter takes off, with a line lifting the netted trash
The helicopter climbs higher in the sky
Men load trash bags and black plastic pipe onto a pickup truck

David Christy, BLM Central California District, 4/2/10

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 426

Last updated: 04-08-2010