Marijuana growing is an environmental menace to the public lands-

Mexican marijuana cartels sully US forests, parks. By Tracie Cone. Associated Press.

Marijuana farming, much of it on public lands, litters the landscape with poisons, water diversions, traps and produces contaminated weed.

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Related. Pot gardern seized in southern Nevada on public lands. Mesquite Local News.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

22 Responses to Mexican marijuana cartels sully US forests, parks

  1. vicki says:

    The environmental impact is not the only concern. The people who grow these plants defend them with automatic rifles, and there have been murders related to these operations. The innocent people who are effected are countless.
    I would think there would be more rangers to help defer this activity. BUt if it isn’t in the public lands, it will still be some place.
    We need more help, law enforcement, every where. This is a good example of the trickle down effect that a lack of enforcement causes on public lands, the general public, and the country as a whole.

  2. Linda Hunter says:

    I have said this before but will say it once again and though you think I might be saying it in jest I am serious about it. Widespread grizzly bear, wolf and mountain lion recovery could help with this problem. Forests that are “tame” invite all kinds of illegal activity from littering, rape and drunkeness to growing operations. The mostly unwarranted fear of grizzly bears, wolves and mountain lions seems to be widespread in the southern cultures.

  3. Jeff says:

    Yet another reason to legalize and regulate marijuana. This is truly a case of the cure being worse than the disease. The black market associated with the illicit drug trade is far more dangerous to society than personal use by citizens. Violence in urban areas, violence along the border, too many inmates (we could actually incarcerate those who are truly dangerous to society), many therapeutic effects for those who need it etc…Maybe this will be one of the changes Obama could bring about.

  4. I’m with Linda – bring back the Grizzlies! Although, here in Idaho (boy do I get tired of starting sentences that way), even though there are only a few grizzlies up north, fear of the great bear causes hunters across the entire state to behave more dangerously.

  5. Jeff makes an excellent point as well…

  6. Overlander says:

    Hot Springs Guy: Yeah, that’s just what we need: A bunch of stoned grizzlies!

  7. catbestland says:

    Littering the landscape with poisons, water diversions and traps are certainly serious problems in their own rights, but contaminated weed!!!. . . simply must not be tolerated.

  8. Linda Hunter,

    I think those people will kill the wildlife, most likely the deer because they are the most likely to eat the crop.

  9. john weis says:

    well i feel for the sharecroppers as well. these people get brought over the border by coyotes, dumped on public land and functionally held as slaves to the mexican cartel landlords until the crop is in. then they get a few hundred bucks (or a bullet in the back of the head) and told to scram. when the fed raid the fields, as they did in st george area last month, the illegals have to fade into the bush and try to survive on ants and rocks to avoid arrest. Sure we can all be Dobbs and claim they brought this calamity upon themselves but it isn’t always that simple.

  10. Salle says:

    See what happens when Congress continually decreases funding for enforcement operations in these and other public land areas?

  11. kim kaiser says:

    remember for the last two years, congress has been controlled by democratic do nothings,,,

  12. Linda Hunter says:

    Ralph you are probably right. Washington State has been hit particularly hard with these big grows and I wonder if Alaska gets as many. We seem to have an atmosphere which makes it easier here with lots of back roads, no scary animals, not much law enforcement and the right weather. The issue is probably more complicated that I know about. Making it legal would certainly be a good solution except for me that would be real inconvenient since I am so allergic to the stuff the smell makes me sick.

  13. vicki says:

    I am pretty certain (not because I grow it myself) that Marijuana is a plant that requires a bit more warmth than Alaska. Not only that, but the Mexican drug farmers and their American counter parts would not likely expend that much money to smuggle things back and forth from Alaska. They also need to be near areas where they will blend in, and can disperse easily of their product.
    Alaska also has fewer escape routes for these criminals.

    (But rest assured that if they were there, Governor Palin could see them from her porch. (Sorry, I coudn’t resist.) Surely if it were an issue in Alaska, she’d be boasting that she single handedly ended the problem while moose hunting, after hockey practice, on her way to church,when she stumbled across a marijuana field. She did make two of the drug dealers get married though when she discovered one of them was pregnant….they will be raising their child as a responsible couple should….incarcerated and inprison orange, but married.)

    Seriously though, we should see that this is a huge red flag. If drug dealers can over run our national parks and public lands…how the hell can we seriously believe we are safe from terrorists here at home?

    We really need to push for more funding for law enforcement and homeland security. In parks, on public lands, and everywhere else we may be vulnerable.

  14. Layton says:

    “how the hell can we seriously believe we are safe from terrorists here at home? ”

    Cuz’ Saint Obama sez’ we are!!

  15. vicki says:

    He actually said we are not safe at home, and need to spend more money state side to assure we are.
    McCain however, wants to continue to spend billions in Iraq, without end in sight, when we seriously need more enforcement at home.

  16. Layton says:

    So if we do Obama’s “thing” in Iraq — and lose — then we just pull all of our defenses home and wait ’till they come here??

    naaaa — I’m not doing this political thing — I’d rather discuss wolves.

  17. Ryan says:

    Actually Weed is barely a crime in AK (a traffic ticket for personal use and I can’t remember but it may actually be legal to posess) But Viki is correct about the climate, although it can be left out during the summer months to get all it can get out of the nearly 24hr sunlight.

  18. Monty says:

    The Beargrass found in west side Oregon National Forests–desirable to florists in Europe and Japan– is routinely stolen by Mexican pickers. I once caught 3 Mexican pickers, who in 5 days, had illegally picked about 3 thousand pounds of beargrass, receiving about 35 cents a pound. The pickers (dropped off by middlemen) camp out & pick for about 7 days and then in the middle of the night the vans return to remove the cargo. I know of one instance where an “18 wheeler” got away with a load of beargrass. To date the pickers have not been violent & are, more or less, poor victums of lawless middlemen who reap the majority of the profit. The damage to the plants is minimal in that the desirable blue green stems are snapped off leaving the majority of plant intact. The forest service sells bear grass contracts that is, also, a way to increase the eyes & ears in the forest. The district that I am familiar with has one law enforcement officer for 500 thousand acres.

  19. Layton says:

    “Stolen”? That’s actually kind of weird — I know of NO law or regulation that would stop anyone from picking thousands of pounds of Beargrass around here. Nobody wants it that I know of — and nothing will eat it.

    By the “blue green stem” are you talking about the one big sprout in the middle that blooms white in the spring??

  20. Linda Hunter says:

    Monty in Washington state I think they can pick all they want for a $25.00 commercial license .. and they do as you describe in fact our woods here are full of bear grass pickers, so many you would think that hunters would get upset about them making hunting very difficult and leaving lots of litter that gets blamed on hunters. However, I don’t think they are “eyes in the woods” for anyone as they are not in contact with law enforcement and do not as far as I can tell, speak English. They do break the law by using vehicles in closed areas, breaking gates and using ORV’s to make new trails and lighting fires when there is a burn ban, littering and camping for too long in one place but the bear grass picking itself is not illegal. They very well might be the same group who has grows stashed away in out of the way places and if not, then they certainly would be the ones who know where they all are, but I can’t imagine that law enforcement people are high on their lists of people to talk to.

  21. Monty says:

    Layton & Linda: Before anyone can remove a commercial forest product they must have a permit or contract. Commercial beargrass contracts are sold by area in Oregon & well defined by sale area maps. Upfront $’s are required, the bid for a 4 thousand acre area is between $6 to 8 thousand $’s plus a bond (depending on quality and area, etc). The contract also defines how plants will be protected and speaks to litter, sanition & such. .Contractors are required to have their loads checked with attached load permits before leaving the forest. Does this stop all theft, obviously not.

    Several year ago the forest service successfully convicted a beargrass thief who spent 6 months in jail with a several thousand $ fine. No, beargrass theft is not as important as drugs but if a law is on the books it should be enforced. The forest service in oregon is attempting to manage a resource in a rational manner. In several instances that I know about legal contractors have turned in illegal pickers.

  22. Matthew Waters says:

    This will only get worse. As we do a better job securing our borders and it becomes more difficult for Mexican organized crime to smuggle in the thousands of tons of marijuana they currently smuggle in, they will grow more and more here. This is a multibillion dollar business. These Mexican drug trafficking organizations would lose too much money if they didn’t grow more here..

    It is time that we take these billions of dollars away from these creeps and let law abiding tax paying American farmers grow marijuana. We could regulate similar to alcohol. At least the “dealers” would be licensed shops that check ID’s, instead of creeps that sell all sorts of far more dangerous drugs. Marijuana is already easily available everywhere in the US. Most people who want to smoke it are probably already smoking it. It’s easy to get and as long as they are moderately careful and keep it at home for the most part they won’t get caught. The tiny possibility of getting caught and having to pay a fine isn’t deterring many who would smoke marijuana.

    We will not stop marijuana production and sales with more enforcement. Law enforcement are already out in force destroying millions of plants a year and have been for decades. They put people in prison left and right, but there are always plenty more out there producing it and selling it to the millions of Americans who smoke it and that will continue to occur as long as there is demand for it and lots of money to be made. There is just too much money to be made. Horrible drugs like meth or heroin cause enormous problems in our communities. More marijuana is consumed in our country than all other illegal drugs combined though. Drugs like meth and heroin aren’t nearly as easily available as marijuana because only a very limited segment of our society actually use those drugs. Keeping them illegal has actually worked to make them not particularly available and so expensive that not so many have the opportunity to try them and use them enough to become addicted. They should never be legalized. Marijuana is not good but it is not extremely addictive and it doesn’t cause a lot of crime or anything like that. It’s already everywhere and relatively cheap to use compared even to alcohol. There is really no point in continuing to try in vain to enforce the ban against it. We aren’t making it hard to get. We aren’t making it too expensive to use. We aren’t really reducing demand. If you look at the per capita use numbers for the US and the Netherlands where they’ve allowed possession and open retail sales from shops with permits for over 30 years, you’d see that more than 40% of Americans have tried marijuana compared to slightly less than 20% of the Dutch. Someday we’re going to legalize it and while a lot of people will be panicking, thinking the sky will fall in or something, before long we’ll all be kicking ourselves wondering why we didn’t do it a long time ago.


October 2008


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey