The US Department of Justice announced this week the conclusion of Operation Forest Watch; a multi-jurisdictional move to rid National Forests of drug traffickers who've used these secluded areas for narcotics production. The project targeted eight inland counties in California and the results were outstandingly successful.
Most of us who spend time in the outdoors know that drug traffickers operating in our forests are a serious problem in all three continental coastal states. Not only do they represent a severe safety threat to those hiking in the woods, they cause a massive amount of property damage and pollution. Illegal marijuana grows are the most common in California; while Meth-amphetamine and Opioid labs are issues in Washington and Oregon. It's suspected in many quarters that these criminals are responsible for more than a few wildfires that plague the West Coast every year.
US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions stated that:
"Some people believe increased marijuana cultivation is harmless. It is not. As with other illicit drug activity, it is causing significant harm to communities across the West. Particularly in states like California, with millions of acres of federal lands and a climate conducive to growing marijuana, illegal marijuana growing operations cause a range of harms, not the least of which is significant damage to the environment—our water, our land, and our wildlife.
"And as for animal life, these illegal marijuana growing activities are harming fish and game. Deer, bears, elk, and other wildlife are being poached, trapped, or poisoned at these illegal grow sites, while also having to contend with the water and land pollution that is ruining their habitats."
The operation took place in eight California counties: Siskiyou, Shasta,Trinity, and Tehama in the North; and Madera, Fresno, Tulare, and Kern Counties in the South. In total, 77 people were arrested, 82 firearms seized; and about 640,000 plants with over 12 tons of processed marijuana were confiscated. A local spokesman for the US Forest Service noted with some disgust that an estimated 118,000 pounds of garbage and 10 tons of chemicals will have to be removed from the sites before reclamation efforts can even start. So much for the urban legend that potheads are in touch with Nature.
Our forests belong to the people, not to drug-traffickers. The Trump Administration deserves credit for finally dealing with this problem.