Marijuana Farming is Worsening California’s Drought… The Nature Conservancy, California

Illegal Mexicans do a lot of this.
She says big government is needed the fix the mess.
But didn’t big government cause the mess?


Marijuana is the biggest cash crop in California, and it’s growing.

The drug has an estimated overall value of roughly $16 billion–more than double the sales of milk and cream.

Though exact stats are hard to come by, government estimates suggest California produces roughly 60 percent of the marijuana consumed in the U.S.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists found that in the last five years Northern California watersheds have seen marijuana acreage under cultivation increase by 55 to 100 percent. Most marijuana is cultivated outdoors in Northern California, where it increasingly saps already stressed streams and rivers.

Marijuana cultivation is a largely unchecked industry.

Sites go up on a whim in hard to access, remote locations.

The State Water Resources Control Board estimates that there are 50,000 grow sites in Northern California.

However, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has only enough resources currently to inspect less than one percent of those sites.

Redding, California and onto Highway 299 for an hour before turning off onto a paved road and then up a forest road for another hour before they came to a remote stream near the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. They pulled over next to a diesel generator that was set up to pump water through plastic piping that ran up a hill. Hundreds of feet of irrigation tubes ran up to ten bulldozed areas where marijuana had been planted. Broken furniture, tents, rotten food, clothing, fertilizer and fuel tanks sat in piles next to abandoned cars. A bulldozer had cut roads straight up the hillside to the different plots. In the one relatively dry winter since the roads were built, dirt had already washed down off the roads and filled in smaller streams and clouded bigger pools. If it rains hard this winter, biologists worry that much of the exposed soils, along with fertilizers and pesticides abandoned on site, will wash down and further damage the watershed. “The effects of this relatively small site were pretty stark,”

Pollution is another big problem. Forest clearing, land terracing, and road construction often occur right next to streams and rivers and lead to erosion. Fine sediment runs directly into streams, damaging spawning and rearing habitat for endangered species like coho salmon and steelhead trout. Pesticides and herbicides contaminate the water. Diesel often leaks from generators set up to pump water to plants, polluting streams and further stressing fish and amphibians.


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