Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation volunteers recently joined forces with the U.S. Forest Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other groups to clean up more than three tons of trash from eight illegal grow sites on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in north-central California.
In total, the amount of trash and infrastructure weighed 6,100 pounds and included five and a half miles of irrigation pipe. It took 22 helicopter loads to remove all the refuse. The trash included both pesticides and rodenticides used to keep any and all animals away from their marijuana plants.
“Some of the [pesticide] is so concentrated animals die in a matter of minutes, if not seconds,” said Craig Thompson, U.S. Forest Service researcher.
Researchers frequently find dead squirrels, bears, Pacific fishers and birds killed by the pesticides used on the grow sites. Once an animal consumes and dies from pesticides, the chemicals continue powering through the entire food web as scavengers feed upon poisoned carcasses. At one site, researchers found a dead fox, a dead vulture that had been feeding on the fox, and dead insects that landed on both.
Authorities identified more than 400 illegal grow sites on Forest Service land in California alone that, in part, are used by international drug organizations.
(Photo source: Shasta-Trinity National Forest)