Acting on a recommendation from the Trinity County Collaborative Group, the Trinity County Board of Supervisors has asked federal and state agencies to increase staffing levels to combat illegal marijuana cultivation on public lands in Trinity County.
The Collaborative cited numerous afflictions associated with marijuana grows, including illegal water diversions that eliminate aquatic habitat and water supply for downstream users; pollution of soils and water with pesticides, fertilizers, human excrement and trash; killing of fish and wildlife by growers through habitat destruction, rodenticide use and uncontrolled subsistence hunting and fishing; localized deforestation and increased erosion; reductions in public safety resulting from grow-site protection measures, increased wildfire starts, and use of poisons/pollutants; increasingly expensive harm to the county’s reputation as a desirable place to recreate and reside.
In its recommendation to the board, the Collaborative said its members regard the problems associated with illegal marijuana growing as a large, widespread and steadily worsening “calamity for Trinity residents and resources.”
The volunteer group working to address numerous forest management issues on public lands in the county urged the board to coordinate and collaborate with federal and state land management, resource management and law enforcement agencies “to employ vigorous and effective abatement measures. In addition, we suggest that you appeal to state and federal political leaders for help in securing the improved staffing, funding and prioritization that agencies may need to fulfill their responsibilities in this area.”
The Board of Supervisors last week followed up with approval of a letter to the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, California Fish & Wildlife Service, State Water Resources Control Board and Cal Fire requesting increased efforts to combat illegal marijuana cultivation on public lands in the county.
The board’s letter noted it as “ironic” that as progress is anticipated from the Collaborative in addressing forestry issues, there is potential for work to be delayed due to dangers posed by trespass marijuana grows.
It said that twice in the last few months, Forest Service staff in Trinity County discovered large grows in close proximity to areas within their program of work and had to halt all activity due to safety issues until the grows were addressed by law enforcement.
The board also noted vacancies within Forest Service law enforcement staffing, urging that all current positions be filled as quickly as possible with new ones added to match the level of need.
“We believe current staffing levels have not kept pace with the growing impacts we are seeing across the landscapes and watersheds of Trinity County,” the letter said.
“This has been a big issue, discussed many times at the Collaborative meetings,” Sup. Debra Chapman said. “There are many more issues with the trespass grows than just marijuana itself. There are land conversions, water diversions and it’s really important that we have as much support as we can from the federal and state agencies on the ground that actually have authority to do something.”
There was a suggestion from the audience that enforcement efforts need to be expanded on private lands as well as public and Sup. Judy Morris said the Collaborative’s mission is to address public land management issues, but state agencies addressed in the letter also do work on private lands.