Environment

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A park ranger chops down marijuana plants inside Sequoia National Park. (AP)

Marijuana Growing Operations Hurting US National Parks

October 13, 2008 10:00 AM
by Emily Coakley
Illegal plots of marijuana growing in national forests are damaging the ecosystems there, federal officials say.

Smoking Grass Is Not So Green

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Mexican cartels are using America’s national forests to grow marijuana, creating “some of the most polluted pockets of wilderness” in the country, the Associated Press reported.

Ron Pugh, an agent with the Forest Service, called the situation a “huge mess.”

“What’s going on on public lands is a crisis at every level,” he told AP. “These are America’s most precious resources, and they are being devastated by an unprecedented commercial enterprise conducted by armed foreign nationals.”

Marijuana users often don’t know what went into growing what they are smoking, said Cicely Muldoon, the park service’s Pacific West deputy regional director.

“People light up a joint, and they have no idea the amount of environmental damage associated with it,” Muldoon told AP.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, national parks used to be used for methamphetamine labs, with some small marijuana plots. About five years ago, that seemed to change.

In 2005, Free Republic said that 9/11, and the clampdown it brought on the borders, may have made it cheaper for cartels to “grow pot here than to ship it across the border.”

One spokeswoman for Sequoia National Park told Free Republic that they found 5,000 marijuana plants in the park in 2001. By 2004, that number had risen to 44,000.

In 2003, Al DeLaCruz, an investigator in Sequoia National Park, told CSM: “What is going on now is far more organized. The impact [on] resources is very dramatic in terms of the refuse left behind; the damage to vegetation, soil, and water.”

Besides the environmental damage, the operations can be dangerous for innocent hikers in the forests. One Sequoia visitor reported seeing “masked operatives toting automatic rifles,” according to CSM.

Related Topics: Legalization effort in Oregon; Marijuana in Europe

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