Illegal pot farms on public land create environmental hazard

November 17, 2019 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A month after two men were arrested at an illicit marijuana farm on public land in the California wilderness, authorities are assessing the environmental impact and cleanup costs at the site.

A group including Forest Service rangers, scientists and conservationists hiked into the so-called trespass grow where 9,000 cannabis plants were illegally cultivated in the Shasta Trinity National Forest.

Officials say trees were clear-cut, waterways diverted, and the ground littered with containers of fertilizer and rodenticide.

The cleanup efforts are spearheaded by the group Cannabis Removal on Public Lands Project — or CROP. It’s a coalition of conservation organizations, tribes, elected officials, police and federal land managers. Also lending its support is the legal cannabis industry, which says it’s being undercut by the criminal market.

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CROP is lobbying for funding to reclaim an estimated 2,000 sites, a process it says could take seven to 10 years.