Drug traffickers grow millions of pot plants in national parks, plundering public lands’ rivers and creeks to keep their thirsty crops thriving. Terrain, the eco-news magazine of Berkeley’s Ecology Center, reports that these illegal grows, which started in Southern California, have since infiltrated “every national park on the West Coast” and are rapidly spreading eastward.
We’re not talking about small patches of plants grown by enterprising hippies. Ron Pugh, a U.S. Forest Service agent who investigates these grows, clarifies to Terrain that the problem is with large-scale operations, not the gentle Humboldt County tokers you might be imagining.
He’s come prepared with a list of comparisons between a “hippie”grow and a DTO site—one maintained by a drug trafficking organization. A traditional garden on public lands, Pugh says, has one or two growers and fewer than fifty plants. The gardener, who lives locally, hikes in every other day or so, carrying water for his plants. Firearms are uncommon, and locations are predictable. “They’re within a quarter mile of a road,” Pugh explains, “and they’re rarely uphill. White guys are lazy.”
DTO sites, on the other hand, average 6,600 plants, and growers go to great lengths to keep them watered, using pumps and hoses to divert water from streams and rivers, and sometimes constructing illegal dams.