BLM California News.bytes 
News.bytes Extra, issue 562

Groups join BLM to clean up illegal marijuana sites

Young men access the site through a steep rocky ravine
ACE crew members access the site through a steep rocky ravine.

Several cooperators joined BLM’s Ukiah Field Office in early November, as they tore down and rehabilitated two illegal marijuana cultivation complexes in the heart of the Cache Creek Wilderness.  These sites were raided in 2010, and more than 20,000 marijuana plants were seized.

The growers did not care that they were severely damaging the Cache Creek Wilderness.  They dug terraces into the slopes, cleared brush and cut trees, levelled camping areas, dug trash pits, fenced off water sources, diverted and piped water from the streams, and dug intermediate reservoirs for mixing fertilizers and other chemicals to be piped to the individual marijuana plants.  Marijuana plants are thirsty and quickly need three to five gallons of water apiece each day.  The growers stole between 60,000 and 100,000 gallons of water each day from the wilderness streams, drying out riparian zones and streams that all kinds of wildlife depend upon. 

The water is mixed with large amounts of fertilizer which goes into the soil and destroys the natural setting and processes so important to the intent and spirit of wilderness.  The effects of the fertilizers last a long time and can easily be seen on sites that were raided and abandoned ten years ago.  Traps are set and poison used against the wildlife that may eat the growers’ crop and insect sprays are heavily used on the plants.  They don’t care about spilling the chemicals and simply throw the empty containers aside when done with them.  Since the growers live at the cultivation site, they have food brought in and poach deer and other game.  They do not believe in “Leave No Trace”. (text continues below)

a man on horseback leads two pack horses
A volunteer from Backcountry Horsemen leads pack horses.

A crew of six young men from the American Conservation Experience and Ranger Jay Brown and Gary Sharpe of the BLM were packed in by the Backcountry Horsemen to a remote location along Cache Creek.  The crew set up a spike camp and for the remainder of the week, walked into the cultivation sites by crossing Cache Creek and making their way up steep and rocky ravines.  One site was three-quarters of a mile from the camp and the other was over a mile away.  The crew removed irrigation pipe, timers, tents, sleeping bags, clothing, trash, fertilizers, pesticides, and tore down reservoirs or “mixing pits” that were dug into the hillsides and built up using poles from trees that had been cut down.  A total of about 1,500 pounds of materials were removed and stockpiled at three locations.  Plans are currently underway for the California National Guard will bring in a helicopter and complete the removal.  They will use cargo nets and haul it to the Redbud trailhead where BLM staff and volunteers will put it in large dumpsters to be taken to the transfer station for recycling and disposal.

This is not the only cultivation site in the Cache Creek Wilderness.  Last year, with the help of the Student Conservation Association, Backcountry Horsemen, California Department of Fish and Game, and California National Guard, the Ukiah Field Office tore down and rehabilitated a raided cultivation site where 44,000 marijuana plants had been grown.  This is a constant problem in wilderness areas in Northern California.  The Ukiah Field Office is very grateful for the cooperators who helped make this year’s wilderness effort a great success.  They are the American Conservation Experience, Backcountry Horsemen, US Army Corps of Engineers, and California National Guard.

workers bundle abandoned drip irrigation tubing
ACE crew members bundle abandoned irrigation tubing.

 workers weigh debris
A ACE crew member and a Backcountry Horsemen volunteer weigh a load.

ACE crew members pose with trash they removed
ACE crew members pose with trash they removed.

workers pose after the cleanup
ACE crew members and Backcountry Horsemen pose with the BLM's Gary Sharpe.

- Gary Sharpe, Multi-Resource Staff Chief, BLM Ukiah Field Office (December, 2012)

BLM California News.bytes, issue 562 -- To subscribe to News.bytes, send an e-mail to: mailto:Join-Newsbytes@List.ca.blm.gov OR visit our News.bytes subscription page.