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Use of federal lands for illegal pot a growing concern, California officials say

Drug cartels illegally growing marijuana on federal public lands in California are getting bolder and using banned, t...

Posted: May 30, 2018 1:11 PM
Updated: May 30, 2018 1:11 PM

Drug cartels illegally growing marijuana on federal public lands in California are getting bolder and using banned, toxic pesticides, officials said Tuesday.

The secret marijuana sites are organized, funded and operated by Mexican cartels, said US Attorney McGregor Scott. The issue is particularly stark in California, which has more than 16 million acres of national forest lands, including Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Lassen Volcanic National Park.

"This is not a bunch of people growing marijuana in the woods," Scott said in a news conference Tuesday. "This is people who are using chemicals and causing manifest environmental damage to a crown jewel of the United States -- our federal public lands."

The illegal growers divert the water supply, use toxic chemicals banned in the US and clear native plants and trees, in order to grow marijuana plants on what were pristine federal lands.

The issue of illegal marijuana farms on public lands has persisted in California for years, but Maj. Gen. David Baldwin of the California National Guard said they had seen a "tremendous uptick and increase in the amount of environmental damage and degradation that's done by the growers, that have become bolder and bolder to take the public lands."

One of the major concerns is the widespread use of toxic and illegal pesticides, which pose dangers to the environment, wildlife, water supply and human health.

One of the pesticides detected at the illegal sites is carbofuran, which is banned in the US on all crops grown for human consumption. The toxic pesticide can seep into soil and streams, killing plants, wildlife including threatened species, and affecting humans who hunt and consume the animals.

Tests found that 78% of the illegal marijuana grow sites had signs of carbofuran.

Federal, state and local officials pledged to work together on this issue with $2.5 million of funding from the US government. "Our national parks and forests are priceless treasures ... but these assets are being destroyed by criminal organizations that cultivate millions of marijuana plants on these lands each year for profit," Scott said.

The US Forest Service estimated that about 1.4 million illegal marijuana plants were found in California last year. Many of these marijuana sites are located in rural counties where there are vast stretches of US forest land.

"We've been besieged in recent years," said Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey. "We're absolutely overwhelmed."

The growers also tend to be armed, which could be dangerous for visitors to public lands. Some of the growers claim to be affiliated with Mexican drug cartels such as the Sinaloa cartel and Jalisco Nueva Generaci-n, said Bill Ruzzamenti, director of the Central Valley California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program.

They leave behind plastic pipes, irrigation lines, tools, human waste and other garbage in what had been undisturbed habitats, according to the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California, which shared a photo from one of the sites.

"In addition to the poison and waste, the cultivators divert water to the marijuana plants, drying up streams and reservoirs used for plants, animals and humans," it stated.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 297651

Reported Deaths: 6808
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19829231
Hinds18966395
Harrison16899283
Rankin12851265
Jackson12754234
Lee9722163
Madison9522204
Jones8042148
Forrest7295138
Lauderdale6879228
Lowndes6062140
Lamar593982
Lafayette5768114
Washington5235130
Bolivar4632124
Oktibbeha443295
Panola433798
Pearl River4219132
Warren4145115
Pontotoc411071
Marshall406595
Monroe3998129
Union397074
Neshoba3857171
Lincoln3630104
Hancock353378
Leflore3402122
Sunflower321386
Tate304674
Pike302797
Scott296771
Alcorn292763
Yazoo292266
Itawamba290775
Coahoma283169
Tippah280265
Copiah280159
Simpson277881
Prentiss271258
Marion258878
Wayne255741
Leake254572
Covington250480
Grenada248978
Adams235978
Newton233353
George232845
Winston222579
Jasper214545
Tishomingo213266
Attala210571
Chickasaw202054
Holmes183470
Clay179452
Stone173529
Tallahatchie171839
Clarke170773
Calhoun158728
Smith154333
Yalobusha146036
Greene128133
Walthall125441
Montgomery123540
Noxubee123431
Perry123335
Lawrence121621
Carroll119725
Amite112435
Webster111132
Jefferson Davis102931
Tunica99824
Claiborne99130
Benton94024
Humphreys93128
Kemper91523
Quitman77514
Franklin76520
Choctaw70317
Jefferson62927
Wilkinson62727
Sharkey49217
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 499819

Reported Deaths: 10148
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson720331403
Mobile36423741
Madison32708469
Tuscaloosa24457422
Montgomery22805523
Shelby22276219
Baldwin19935289
Lee15083161
Calhoun13963296
Morgan13801255
Etowah13419327
Marshall11460215
Houston10130264
Elmore9515190
Limestone9440139
St. Clair9057228
Cullman9000183
Lauderdale8630214
DeKalb8509175
Talladega7647165
Walker6601260
Jackson6552104
Autauga634792
Blount6256128
Colbert6010121
Coffee5261104
Dale4685107
Russell408134
Franklin400879
Covington3999107
Chilton3922104
Escambia379573
Tallapoosa3637143
Clarke344553
Chambers3434111
Dallas3428142
Pike293173
Marion288996
Lawrence286287
Winston258668
Bibb246558
Marengo245357
Geneva240670
Pickens226357
Barbour213951
Hale212969
Fayette202857
Butler201666
Henry183741
Cherokee178240
Monroe166739
Randolph165441
Washington157136
Macon147845
Crenshaw146955
Clay146254
Cleburne140341
Lamar133933
Lowndes133151
Wilcox123125
Bullock117736
Conecuh107224
Perry106427
Sumter101032
Coosa90324
Greene88932
Choctaw56123
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