Rampant Marijuana Cultivation Is Damaging U.S. National Forests

U.S. officials say widespread marijuana cultivation in national forests has caused “severe” damage to some ecosystems and wildlife in 20 states. In testimony before the U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, U.S. Forest Service Director of Law Enforcement David Ferrell said federal officials have uncovered large-scale marijuana operations in 67 different national forests across the U.S. At these sites — which typically cover 10 to 20 acres and include armed guards and counter-surveillance methods — operators usually clear large areas of native vegetation; spray voluminous amounts of herbicides, rodenticides, and pesticides; and divert thousands of gallons of water daily from streams, lakes, and drinking water supplies. In California alone, Ferrell said, the Forest Service has removed more than 130 tons of trash, 300 pounds of pesticides, and nearly 260 miles of irrigation piping from 335 illegal cultivation sites. Cleaning and restoring the sites costs about $15,000 per acre, Ferrell says.