The Landscape-Scarring, Energy-Sucking, Wildlife-Killing Reality of Pot Farming

six riversJosh Harkinson writes about the ugly side of marijuana as a cash crop for Mother Jones via Medium:

STARTING ABOUT 90 MILES northwest of Sacramento, an unbroken swath of national forestland follows the spine of California’s rugged coastal mountains all the way to the Oregon border. Near the center of this vast wilderness, along the grassy banks of the Trinity River’s south fork, lies the remote enclave of Hyampom (pop. 241), where, on a crisp November morning, I climb into a four-wheel-drive government pickup and bounce up a dirt logging road deep into the Six Rivers National Forest. I’ve come to visit what’s known in cannabis country as a “trespass grow.”

“This one probably has the most plants I’ve seen,” says my driver, a young Forest Service cop who spends his summers lugging an AR-15 through the backcountry of the Emerald Triangle—the triad of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties that is to pot what the Central Valley is to almonds and tomatoes. Fearing retaliation from growers, the officer asks that I not use his name. Back in August he was hiking through the bush, trying to locate the grow from an aerial photo, when he surprised a guy carrying an iPod, gardening tools, and a 9 mm pistol on his hip. He arrested the man and alerted his tactical team, which found about 5,500 plants growing nearby, with a potential street yield approaching $16 million.

Today, a work crew is hauling away the detritus by helicopter. Our little group, which includes a second federal officer and a Forest Service flack, hikes down an old skid trail lined with mossy oaks and madrones, passing the scat of a mountain lion, and a few minutes later, fresh black bear droppings. We follow what looks like a game trail to the lip of a wooded slope, a site known as Bear Camp. There, amid a scattering of garbage bags disemboweled by animals, we find the growers’ tarps and eight dingy sleeping bags, the propane grill where they had cooked oatmeal for breakfast, and the backpack sprayers they used to douse the surrounding 50 acres with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The air smells faintly of ammonia and weed. “This is unicorns and rainbows, isn’t it?” says Mourad Gabriel, a former University of California-Davis wildlife ecologist who has joined us at the site, as he maniacally stuffs a garbage bag with empty booze bottles, Vienna Beef sausage tins, and Miracle-Gro refill packs…

[continues at Mother Jones via Medium]


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25 Comments on "The Landscape-Scarring, Energy-Sucking, Wildlife-Killing Reality of Pot Farming"

  1. Mick-Doscious | Apr 20, 2014 at 11:16 am |

    These are illegal operations, yes? Legalization across the board could add regulations concerning these grows, and a meager portion of the taxes could be used for accredited and sanctioned search crews to abolish these types of operations, instead of the taxes we already pay for these teams to find them? The Reefer Madness idiots make the pros of legalization outweigh the cons no matter what they do or say.

  2. BuzzCoastin | Apr 20, 2014 at 12:23 pm |

    nice piece about the effects of criminalizing a plant

    interesting that illegal growers mentioned here
    use the same land raping growing techniques as industrial farmers
    with the same polluting effects
    but when pot growers do it, it’s sensational media spew
    when Bubba Cargil does it, it’s good eaten

  3. The title and article is misleading to say the least. We wouldn’t have people illegally growing pot in national forests and destroying them if it wasnt illegal in the first place. Im getting real tired of the circular arguments that anti-weed people love to use.

    • The Well Dressed Man | Apr 21, 2014 at 1:15 am |

      it’s a bit more complicated that that. the large-scale underground growers are able to profit from the prohibition markup, and campaign against legalization in NorCal. The regulated product destined for the medical market ends up on the open market, and depresses the price per oz. However, it seems that exports to Colorado may be perking things up lately.

  4. This is your forrest as the result of a corrupt big brother government trying to tell people for more than a half of a century that their body is not their own but a loan from the state and it must be protected by the state. If government (and the ass-hole media/reporters on the government payroll [Josh Harkinson]) would mind their own damned business and allow (the)US to mind ours there would be no need to hide in the forrests………..Would there?

  5. Go hydro.

    • the power requirements are energy-sucking regardless.

      decentralized permaculture would be living the dream…

      • Echar Lailoken | Apr 20, 2014 at 3:40 pm |

        What about using solar panels and batteries to store the excess?

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 20, 2014 at 4:43 pm |

            The main draw on resources would be water. I doubt greywater could be used. Mold and such is not so good for kind buds. Perhaps I am incorrect though.

          • Given that greywater may contain nutrients, pathogens, and is often discharged warm, it is very important to store it before use for irrigation purposes, unless it is properly treated first.

            …I think we’re still within the bounds of permaculture, then…

            So batteries, check.

            However, I can’t give you solar panels until we start to see significantly more movement in these directions…

            The new photovoltaic technology uses abundant, less-expensive materials like copper and zinc ― “earth-abundant materials” ― instead of indium, gallium and other so-called “rare earth” elements. These substances not only are scarce, but are supplied largely by foreign countries, with China mining more than 90 percent of the rare earths needed for batteries in hybrid cars, magnets, electronics and other high-tech products. Atwater and James C. Stevens, Ph.D., described successful efforts to replace rare earth and other costly metals in photovoltaic devices with materials that are less-expensive and more sustainable.

            Matt Law at the University of California in Irvine has already done research indicating iron pyrite, sometimes called “fool’s gold,” may be able to replace Rare Earths in many green applications.Law’s solution isn’t free. He proposes processing the metal into nanocrystals. And its future is uncertain. The efficacy of this isn’t proven yet.

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 20, 2014 at 5:22 pm |


            Wind power then?

            Or if a person has access to a stream, a water turbine.

            Perhaps a combo of the two?

          • I’ll accept those answers.

            Now I can power the smartphone or tablet that I’ll someday liberate give in and purchase. All I needz is wikipedia and a choice selection from my music library.

            I knew there was a reason I kept up with the Interwebz all these years…

  6. Conspiracy Carrot | Apr 20, 2014 at 4:04 pm |

    The Landscape-Scarring, Energy-Sucking, Wildlife-Killing Reality of ILLEGAL Pot Farming


    The Landscape-Scarring, Energy-Sucking, Wildlife-Killing Reality of CANNABIS PROHIBITION

    Who writes this shit?

  7. Ffejtball | Apr 20, 2014 at 4:48 pm |

    What a fucked up spin to put on this. If it weren’t illegal this trend would never have developed. It’s comparatively easy to grow inside in controlled conditions, but since a massive crop equates to a massive payoff some people are obviously going to take that risk.

    And the most fucked up thing of it all? Just like BuzzCoastin pointed out, industrial farms are even worse than this, but do they get held to task?

  8. Last ditch efforts to try to stave off the coming across the board legalization.

  9. Dread Raider | Apr 20, 2014 at 7:37 pm |

    Well it wouldn’t look that way if the cops took the trash out with the weed they are already taking out.
    It sucks the dude got threatened. But he did post a propaganda piece aimed at illegal growers. How did he think they would respond?
    I also wounder how many times the case was the people pack out what they packed in and never made his little story or notice?

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