Pubdate: Mon, 14 Feb 2011
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2011 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Cindy Von Quednow
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Environmental Issues)


Experts Say Fertilizers Are Killing Animals

The growing number of illegal marijuana farms in the Los Padres 
National Forest is killing animals and polluting the land, officials say.

Sgt. Mike Horne of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department narcotics 
bureau said not only do growers kill animals that get in the way of 
their gardens, but they also set up shop in natural habitats, 
poisoning water and land.

"The fertilizers they use, Miracle-Gro and ammonium sulfate, they 
pour that right into soil. ... I can't imagine drinking that water 
can be healthy for any animal," he said.

The number of marijuana plants seized in the Ventura County portion 
of the Los Padres has increased 10 percent since 2007, largely 
because of the presence of international drug cartels, according to 
the narcotics bureau. The amount of weapons seized also has increased 
- - from one in 2007 to 31 in 2010.

Horne, a hunter, said that when he and his team fly over the forest 
looking for marijuana farms, he no longer sees game below.

He said the growers divert water from its natural course so they can 
use it for irrigation. "There is a human presence out there, day in 
and day out, that can move game out," Horne said.

Patrick Foy, a warden with the California Department of Fish and 
Game, said the state's forests are ideal for marijuana cultivation, 
because of their isolation and year-round water supply, but the 
effects are clear.

"Poaching, pollution and habitat destruction all go hand in hand with 
marijuana cultivation," Foy said. "Growers are depriving wildlife of 
water, polluting whatever water is left, and if the only water that 
is available to drink is laden with pesticides and fertilizers, 
animals will drink it. It will make them sick and they will die - not 
only die, but die a miserable and painful death."

Foy said growers line their sites with poison to keep small animals 
from eating their plants, creating an unnatural cycle of death that 
disrupts the ecosystem.

Deer are attracted to the marijuana itself, while bears are attracted 
to the food that growers bring to the sites, Foy said.

"When bears come to a camp, they're not shot in the lungs or the 
head, they're shot in the gut so they run away," Foy said. "They 
purposefully inflict mortal wounds to animals so they suffer for 
hours before they die."

Although no violence has been reported between growers and law 
enforcement officials or visitors to the Los Padres in Ventura 
County, Andrew Madsen, a spokesman with the U.S. Forest Service, said 
the Ojai station often gets phone calls from people who find evidence 
of marijuana farms.

"We do get anonymous phone calls to law enforcement from people who 
saw dead animals and think (the animals) were poisoned," Madsen said. 
"That does impact the areas where people like to go in and hunt."

He said anyone who spots a marijuana farm or grower should 
immediately contact the local district office.

Madsen remembered when he was inspecting the forest with an 
environmental group, and an expert called the marijuana sites a 
"holocaust of land."

"It's going to take years for a normal patch of land to return to the 
way it was prior to growth," Madsen said.

According to the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, a statewide 
task force of nine state and federal agencies based in Sacramento, 
4.3 million plants were seized across California last year.

"There is increased danger for your average citizen and everyone 
involved," said Michelle Gregory, a spokeswoman for the campaign. 
"This is a concern for hunters and hikers who come across a growth 
site, or find growers themselves."

There have been confrontations and injuries between law enforcement 
officials and growers in other areas of the state, but no deaths, Gregory said.

"More (growers) are willing to stand their ground and try to protect 
their growth, which usually ends badly for them," she said.

On the Net:
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom