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Battle Against Marijuana Growers Temporarily Closes Crystal Cave at Sequoia National Park


Another marijuana growing operation has been spotted in the steep and rugged foothills of Sequoia National Park not far from Crystal Cave. NPS photo.

The latest chapter in the battle against marijuana farms in national parks led to the closure of Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park while rangers swooped in on a growing operation with an estimated street value of $20 million.

The operation was within a half-mile of the cave, according to park officials. Situated in a steep area of Sequoia, one rife with rattlesnakes and black bears, the pot farm is just the latest to be found within the National Park System. While Sequoia used to be the only park with such growing operations, in recent years they've been spotted in Yosemite, Kings Canyon, North Cascades, Redwoods, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area, said Scott Wanek, chief ranger for the National Park Service's Pacific West Region.

“Every year we seem to be adding parks that are used for this activity," he said Thursday.

As the operations have sprouted in more and more areas, they've also become more sophisticated, the chief ranger said. No longer restricted to lower altitudes in chaparral, growing operations now can be found in conifer forests in the parks, he said. Plus, from the horticultural side advances have enabled the growers to produce not one but two crops a year, said Chief Ranger Wanek.

The associated impacts on the parks' landscape can be tremendous, he said. Often a one-acre growing plot will translate to 10 acres of disturbance when the growers' camps are taken into consideration, the trails they cut through the landscape, the dumpsites they create, and the intricate irrigation lines they install.

"Now it’s not a big deal to route water miles away from the source to a growing location," said Chief Ranger Wanek. "You can run a lot of that lightweight irrigation tubing in a very short time.”

Then, too, there's the impact on the wildlife. Chemicals and fertilizers used in the operations contaminate streams and enter the food chain by poisoning animals that are they fed upon by scavengers. Small mammals and rodents are targeted by the growers so they don't eat the marijuana plants. Larger animals are killed for food.

“We’ve found piles of deer hooves and bear paws. I’ve gotten photos off of these guys posing with dead bears," said the chief ranger. "It’s the worst of everything we’d expect to see in the backcountry all happening in one area here."

Those behind the operations are Mexican drug cartels, not "your basic summer-of-love kids," said Holly Bundock, a public affairs specialist the West Region office.


They should just legalize, regulate, and tax the stuff and put these scumbags out of business.


My travels through the National Park System:

The sooner they legalize marijuana, the sooner they can recover the damage done by groups forced to hide - vegetation and animals. The demand is never going away and thinking that so called "enforcement" is effective is paramount to sticking your head many feet down into the sand.

Point Reyes National Seashore has had one too. One was actually uncovered when someone else moved back to the same area and started another pot farm. One growing site in Golden Gate NRA was on land administered by Point Reyes NS.

-- Never mind - edited out a duplicate post --

Cut back on the weed, YPW. ;)


My travels through the National Park System:

One of the biggest problems outside of poaching in the national parks. One possible solution: Bring out the National Guard to protect our national parks and it's dwindling natural resources. In Africa they shoot the damn poachers on sight and should do the same with marijuana growers and illegal hunters.

The federal government has no constitutional authority to regulate/prohibit marijuana. (Recall that it took a constitutional amendment for the federal government to ban alcohol consumption.)

I agree with those calling for cannabis legalization. California is supposedly considering decriminalization. Hopefully, the federal government will respect states' rights, but I'm not holding my breath as federal raids against medical marijuana dispensaries in California have continued under the Obama administration.

The positive environmental effects of legalization don't stop at Sequoia; hemp fiber could be grown in California's Central Valley, replacing water-intensive cotton, and hemp seed oil could partially offset petroleum consumption.

Frank, so how do you resolve the immediate problem with illegal trash growing weed in our national parks? Sit on are cans and do nothing. Immediate action is needed now! To completely legalize weed in California will take a coons age to resolve, in the mean while national parks become a drug haven for pot growers. Precise and deliberate action is needed now and not for the courts to drag on a legalization process that will take infinity to resolve. And again, the national parks become a strangled hold by the drug cartel and their little peons. The word "peon" is not being used here in a insulting fashion but being used in the same terminology and context as a illegal and unskilled farm worker.

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