Reese reports federal officials have said illegal marijuana plots "harm native plants and wildlife, contaminate streams and cut off public access." This is particularly true in the West, where David Ferrell, director of Forest Service law enforcement, told Reese there are plenty of "remote sites with thick vegetation cover, good soils and easily accessible water sources." The sophisticated operations often involve upwards of 1,000 plants covering as much as 20 acres, with financial incentives totaling as much as $3,500 per processed plant.
In response, the Forest Service, BLM, the National Park Service and local and state law enforcement have "stepped up efforts to find growing operations in the past five years." Over the past two fiscal years combined, over 7 million plants were eradicated. Volunteers, and sometimes the National Guard, have helped the Forest Service clean up after crops are destroyed, which can cost between $15,000 and $20,000. Last year, $3.5 million was spent for clean-up. Despite efforts, though, officials tell Reese "the extent of the problem continues to place a strain on resources." (Read more)