A multi-agency team of law enforcement officers removed 8,816 young marijuana plants from an illegal grow site located in the South Fork drainage of Sequoia National Park. The exact location of the raid and eradication effort was not disclosed but it was near the Ladybug camping area, about two miles from South Fork Campground at 4,000 feet elevation.
Rangers conducting surveillance in the area a few days prior to the Monday, March 28, operations noticed the cultivation site. The growers diverted a natural flow of water from a creek and installed a network of irrigation lines.
A large pit was excavated for water storage and an extensive area was cleared of all vegetation. Terraces had already been dug to accommodate the plantings of thousands of immature plants that were being stored at the site. A campsite and kitchen area had been developed and was in use at the wilderness locale.
“Marijuana cultivation is one of the greatest human-caused threats to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks at this time,” said Ned Kelleher, Sequoia-Kings Canyon chief ranger.
Marijuana cultivation sites have other impacts besides the obvious resource damage. A single pot plant uses six to eight gallons of water daily.
Water used by growers for personal use leaves even less for wildlife and the native vegetation. Water runoff tainted by pesticides presents additional challenges for downstream users.
Since 2002, well-organized drug cartels have been operating large-scale cultivation sites in the local national parks and on all area public lands. In the last 14 years, 300,000 plants with a potential value of $850 million have been eradicated Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Proponents of a 2016 ballot measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use in California believe that passage of marijuana reform would be a prime moving force to end the cultivation in California’s national parks and on public lands.
In the recent South Fork eradication, no suspects were apprehended. Anyone with information in the case should call 888-677-2746.