Some of our national parks and forests are becoming a bit less Into the Wild and more No Country For Old Men, thanks to Mexican marijuana cartels who squat on federal land to start massive grow operations. Perhaps worst of all, they often severely trash and pollute the land with toxic chemicals used to procure larger crops. From AP:
"What's going on on public lands is a crisis at every level," said Forest Service agent Ron Pugh. "These are America's most precious resources, and they are being devastated by an unprecedented commercial enterprise conducted by armed foreign nationals. It is a huge mess."
The drug cartels dump plant growth hormones into streams, divert water from intended sources with PVC pipes, and cover the ground in rat poison to keep animals away from their cash crops. The growers also poach deer, bears, and other animals, and they cause incalculable damage by creating an illegal network of unofficial trails.
They're also extremely dangerous: BLM biologists surveying public land in a remote area of northern Nevada last week were held at gunpoint for hours by alleged Mexican marijuana growers after accidentally running into their grow spot. After a few tense hours, the gunmen let the scientists go.
Officials first caught Mexican drug cartels on federal land in 1998 in Sequoia National Park, and popular spots for illegal grow sites include the Cascades of California, Oregon, and Washington, and fertile forest land of Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
"People light up a joint, and they have no idea the amount of environmental damage associated with it," said Cicely Muldoon, deputy regional director of the Pacific West Region of the National Park Service.
All in all, bad news for the environmentally-conscious who occasionally spark a doob. This is bound to harsh a lot of mellows.