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The illegal activity of growing and harvesting of marijuana continues to increase on the National Forests. Criminal organizations that run the grow sites employ armed guards who pose a deadly threat to Forest visitors and employees.

 

What to do if you encounter a marijuana cultivation site


 

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forest seeks to provide a safe environment for the public, its employees, and natural resources. So while only a fraction of National Forest System lands are affected by illegal marijuana cultivation, the Forest Service believes that safety risks are real and visitors and employees should be informed about them.

photo of man with taller pot plant

Typical outdoor cultivation site (photo: DEA, San Francisco)

“The safety of forest visitors and our employees is our top priority,” said Deput Forest Supervisor Ted Coffman. “Marijuana cultivation occurs on some National Forests and it’s important for visitors and employees to be aware of their surroundings.”

The disturbances that marijuana cultivation makes on natural resources causes extensive and long-term damage to ecosystems and impacts the supplies of public drinking water for hundreds of miles. Growers clear native vegetation before planting and sometimes use miles of black plastic tubing to transport large volumes of water from creeks that are often dammed for irrigation.

The use of banned herbicides and pesticides by marijuana growers kill wildlife and competing vegetation. This loss of vegetation allows rain water to erode the soil and wash poisons, human waste, and trash from the grow sites into streams and rivers.

Here are some clues that you may have come across a marijuana cultivation site:

As soon as you become aware that you have come upon a cultivation site, back out immediately. Never engage the growers as these are extremely dangerous people. If you can identify a landmark or record a GPS coordinate, that’s very helpful. The growers may be present and may or may not know that you have found their grow site.

Get to a safe place and report as much detail about the location and incident as you can recall to any uniformed member of the Forest Service or to your local law enforcement agency. Leave the way you came in, and make as little noise as possible.

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to State and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

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