I have no opinion about marijuana. Never toked, never cared to, and I can’t say I feel strongly about whether anyone else chooses to, especially while cigarettes are legal.
That said, the periodic discoveries of pot farms in national parks and forests is a definite disaster, and one that can be fixed.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports on a Big raid in Marin County:
The discovery of 22,740 marijuana plants growing in and around Point Reyes National Seashore last week wasn’t only the biggest pot seizure ever made in Marin County. It was an environmental mess that will take several months and tens of thousands of dollars to clean up.
The crops seized on the steep hillsides overlooking Highway 1 were planted by sophisticated growers who cleared vegetation, terraced land, drew water from streams through miles of irrigation hoses and doused acres of land with hundreds of pounds of fertilizer and pesticides.
This is as bad as if someone planted a cornfield or an apple orchard in the midst of the park. These sorts of incursions are commonplace in developing nations, where park enforcement is inadequate and land ownership is confused. In America, people move into the park because their actions are illegal.
The same problem arises with meth labs. A friend investigating black bear distributions in Kentucky was more worried about being shot by tweakers than by any wild thing.
The problem is twofold. First, that these activities are pushed to the limits of society, and that park enforcement is underfunded. The National Park Service does have specialized units that hunt for pot farms in parks, but that draws away funds from other uses. Rangers who ought to be helping the public enjoy the park are obliged to gather evidence from pot farms and meth labs.
The Friday Find is a look at surprising things in nature that hide right under our nose. There are two things hiding here: the farms themselves, and the problems our national parks face.