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Growing marijuana in forests and woodlands causes harm to all the wildlife who call that land home. Small streams are dammed and the water is diverted to other drainages or used to water plants in the grows, leaving the wildlife who rely on the water in need of new resources. This is hit close to home at HSWLT when one of our conservation easements donors contacted us to say that ERT was cleaning up a site about 5 miles from the sanctuary!

HSWLT is proud to support the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew Environmental Reclamation Team in their efforts to reclaim and clean up trespass marijuana grown on public lands. As a non-profit volunteer-based organization the Environmental Reclamation Team (ERT), a division of the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew (HSVTC), was created to continue the HSVTC’s mission of stewardship and protection of our public lands. . These hard-working volunteers have cleaned up hundreds of grow sites in California since 2006.

Where trespass marijuana is grown, pesticides, herbicides and rodenticides are brought in to protect and increase the growth of the marijuana plants. Applications of these chemicals are common in amounts thousands of times higher than suggested. And partially open or stacked bags of unused fertilizer or pesticides are left there to eventually degrade into the soil and water supply. These chemicals destroy the food supply and kill the animals, both directly and indirectly.

Pacific fisher (a species of concern), hawks and owls die from eating the poisoned rodents. Deer, black bear and other larger animals are killed by the people guarding the sites.

Trash -- including unused chemicals, food, propane bottles and stoves, cookware camping equipment, and pipe -- is left at the site to degrade or even to deliberately harm the animals. In most cases, helicopters remove the debris due to steep terrain and quantity of trash. The team secures hazardous chemicals and other trash from the site and scientifically catalogs all amounts removed. Through ERT has created an organization that cleans up these illegal grow sites.

The ERT was created to clean up as much of this damage as possible. The ERT uses trained leaders who lead volunteers in the collection of the hazardous trash at the sites. An average site of 5-10 thousand plants will involve 12 law enforcement personnel, 5 leaders and 25 volunteers through partnerships with United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, University of California Davis, California Army National Guard, and County and State law enforcement.

ERT's expenses for an average site run about $5.000, but all sites are different in size and difficulty. This price does not include helicopter time of an average $1,000 per hour or $7,000 a day. The variability of the sites may allow us to clean up more or less sites with that money. HSWLT is proud to give financial support to this important effort.

Spotted Salamander

Spotted salamanders are difficult to find. Adults spend most of their day hiding underground or beneath rocks and logs. But you can see more and read about them here.


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