Pubdate: Tue, 03 Aug 2010
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2010 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson


Fed up with armed marijuana growers taking over public lands, a group
of Mendocino County residents on Tuesday asked the board of
supervisors to declare a state of emergency and bring in the National

"They're everywhere, they are destroying the forest," said Chris
Brennan, a Laytonville rancher and federal trapper.

"It's out of control," said Paul Trouette, a county Fish and Game

Supervisors directed the county attorney to investigate what a state
of emergency would entail and the potential repercussions.

The request comes one week after a sheriff's deputy shot to death a
man that the sheriff's office said leveled a firearm at him in a large
marijuana garden in the Mendocino National Forest east of Covelo.

Public lands have long been favorite locations for large-scale illegal
marijuana gardens. But the problem has worsened, something state and
federal drug enforcement officials blame on Mexican drug cartels.

This year, about 440,000 pot plants have been eradicated from the
Mendocino National Forest alone, said Michael Gaston, assistant
special agent in charge with the U.S. Forest Service.

Large-scale illegal cultivators are shooting and poisoning wildlife,
dumping pesticides into streams, diverting streams and taking pot
shots at people who attempt to use the forest between the spring and
fall, Brennan said.

"I've been shot at," he said.

A half dozen other people at the board meeting, held in Covelo for the
first time in many years, said they'd also had warning shots fired in
their direction while on public lands.

"There are pieces of the county we don't go in now," said Peter Bauer,
a fifth generation Covelo cattle rancher. He said he won't be using
some of the grazing permits he has for public lands because of
marijuana gardens. "My livelihood is threatened by this," he said.

Paula Fugman no longer rides horses on federal forest trails. "It's
really scary," she said.

One Covelo resident called the pot operations "an armed foreign

Gaston said the U.S. Forest Service has boosted its enforcement
manpower and is working with local and state officers. Efforts are
focused on apprehending "queen bees" that run the operations, not just
the workers who toil in and protect the pot, he said.

The department also is boosting its post-eradication cleanup, which
includes destroying miles of black irrigation tubing and other
pot-growing infrastructure and hauling out pesticides left behind.

North county residents say more must be done.

"We've already lost the war," said Cory Miller, who lives five miles
from the remote area where the shooting took place.

Supervisor John McCowen said the efforts will fail until the federal
government decriminalizes marijuana, thus critically reducing its

Checkpoints at the entrances to forest land would greatly discourage
pot growers from entering, she said.

"There are only a few roads in," said Virginia Spivey, a teacher at
the Round Valley High School in Covelo.
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