Growers are now being blame for destruction of national parks. While I don’t condone anything that hurts our environment, they really need to consider that this prohibition is the root cause. The bad guys have created the black market, and now they have to deal with it.
From N.Y. Daily News:
“Pot smokers like to burn one down, but growers of marijuana are getting heat for tearing it down in the country’s national forests.
The outlaw reefer growers seek out national parkland for their hidden weed farms because the forests are incredibly vast, security is incredibly light and conditions are ripe for growing, the website Live Science reported.
But as covert cultivation of pot farms on U.S. National Forest System lands becomes more common, environmental costs are mounting, the website’s report details.
“The lands are remote, with few people, the forest vegetation is dense; there is an extensive system of roads and trails (both opened and closed); soils are fertile, and water for irrigation is available for the diverting,” explained David Ferell, director of law enforcement for the U.S. Forest Service.
Limited security is another major factor luring marijuana growers to squat on federal lands.
“National parks and forests are vast lands that are sparsely policed,” said Warren Eth, who wrote a review on marijuana cultivation in national parks.
“In some areas, there is one park ranger for every 100,000 acres. No one can possibly police or patrol that area.”
Growers who take advantage of national parkland by establishing pot gardens are doing more than breaking the law with their green thumbs, the report notes. They’re ripping out native vegetation to clear tracts for their own crops, adversely impacting ecosystems and scaring off wildlife.
Some growers even douse their fields with toxic chemicals to fend off weeds, bugs and rodents, Eth said.
“The most disgusting aspect of it is the pollution,” he said. “They just pour chemicals like nobody’s business … and they get washed into streams that flow through national parks.”
The U.S. Forest Service has reported 67 major marijuana-growing operations in national forests in 20 different states, but the agency says large plots weren’t detected until 1995.
Increased security at national borders, thereby making pot smuggling more difficult, may have fueled some of the marijuana cultivation in national parks, Eth said.
“The Mexican cartels and other growers began to think to themselves that they could make more money and run less risk if they were to grow it stateside,” he said.
While the forestry service is struggling to unearth the illegal pot plots, the cleanup and restoration process once they are uncovered can cost as much as $15,000 per acre, officials said. Hundreds of thousands of federal dollars have already been spent to undo the destruction.
Some experts, like Eth, are calling for marijuana legalization as a solution to the problem.
“If the country could sit down and look at the damage and the untold billions of dollars that are spent to combat it, perhaps we can come to a conclusion that we don’t want this in our parks,” he said, adding: “That we don’t want to spend billions upon billions of dollars on something that can be regulated and taxed.”
Others suggest legalization is too broad of a fix, and that individual cases should be handled differently.
“Some on both sides of the debate about legalizing marijuana see it as an all-or-none issue — either complete legalization or complete prohibition,” Ralph Wesheit, a criminal justice researcher at Illinois State University, told Live Science.
“We don’t take such extreme positions with alcohol or tobacco, and I’m not sure why it’s helpful to take such positions with marijuana.”
“It is very important to distinguish these very large operations from small ones on a variety of dimensions, including impact on the environment and potential for violence,” he added.
There are photos and comments accompanying the article which are interesting.