What is a Trespass Grow Site?

Trespass grows are sites where marijuana is illegally grown on public lands without the public or the agency stewarding the public’s land permission.  They are large-scale operations, with plant counts numbering anywhere from 1,000-80,000, and they are largely funded and operated by drug trafficking organizations.

Trespass Marijuana Grow Sites are an overlooked but serious issue threatening the health of our national forests in California.  Growers typically modify the land, divert surface waters, apply potent pesticides and leave garbage, chemicals, human waste, and non-biodegradable materials when they depart. Winter rains can create severe erosion and wash poisons, human waste and trash into streams and rivers. These sites on our public lands are not only detrimental to human health but damaging to wildlife and their environment.

The Damage

On average, law enforcement locates 300-600 trespass grow sites in California each year. There are an estimated 300-500 additional grow sites that go undetected, possibly more. Trespass grow sites leave garbage in the forest, divert water from rivers and streams, and utilize a staggering amount of caustic toxicants that are poisoning animals, and polluting soil and watersheds.

These toxicants are climbing their way through the food chain, and as they do they are having a huge impact on our wildlife. Traces of these poisons are found in our watersheds, and in various forms of wildlife. A recent clean-up operation spanned seven sites within the Trinity River watershed in Trinity County. These reclamations removed 104 pounds of rodenticide, 8,188 pounds of fertilizer, 8.5 miles of irrigation line, 560 gallons of usable insecticide, and 68 ounces of concentrated carbofuran (equaling 60-70 gallons in diluted form), and 205 fifty-gallon bags of garbage, weighing in at 4 tons.

The Pacific fisher, a medium sized mammal in the weasel family, is one of several species which are severely impacted by the toxicants used in trespass grows. In 2014, testing of Pacific Fishers in California showed an 86% rate of exposure to the chemical toxicants that are used at these sites. The number of known fisher deaths resulting directly from trespass grow site toxicants is on the rise as well; initially 4 fishers were found poisoned between 2007 and 2012, but now in just a 2 year period (2012-2014) nine more fishers were discovered poisoned.

Trespass Grow Site Reclamations

Addressing the damage caused by Trespass Marijuana Grow Site Clean-ups is essential to protecting the health of our public lands. The Integral Ecology Resource Center has pioneered efforts to address these problems through trespass grow site clean-ups.  Known as reclamations, these clean-ups are collaborative operations that remove toxicants and garbage, and assess and monitor the impacts of trespass grow sites. The IERC, along with other instrumental partners, formed the North Coast Reclamation Coalition (NCRC) in 2014 to begin organizing these reclamations in Northern California.

The North Coast Reclamation Coalition

The North Coast Reclamation Coalition (NCRC) is a regional group of nonprofits and non-governmental agencies that are working to address the environmental threats of trespass marijuana grow sites.

The shared goal of the NCRC is to create a coordinated approach to facilitate timely cleanup and remediation of trespass marijuana grow sites in order to limit the risk of extensive and enduring environmental damage, and to build a scientific understanding of site conditions and environmental effects through assessment and monitoring.

Our team has collaborated and partnered with various agencies and tribes including the US Forest Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife,  Law Enforcement, Hoopa Tribe, and the California National Guard to safely reclamate our public lands.

The efforts of the NCRC are pioneering the dismantling of these toxic outlaw marijuana farms, helping to restore the health of our forests and watersheds while protecting wildlife. We are also working to raise awareness about this important issue through public outreach and networking, helping to inform the public and advocate for funding to accomplish this valuable work.

The NCRC Team: the Integral Ecology Research Center,  The Trinity County Resource Conservation District, and The Watershed Research and Training Center.

Please contact Josh at the Watershed Center for more information:

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