Be Safe on Our Public Lands

Be Safe on Our Public Lands
What to do if you Encounter a Marijuana Cultivation Site

“The safety of public land visitors and our employees is our top priority,” said Forest Supervisor Ed Armenta.  “Marijuana cultivation does occur on some public lands.  It’s important for people to understand that they need to be aware of their surroundings.”

Marijuana cultivation makes many disturbance to natural resources, causes extensive and long-term damage to ecosystems, and impacts the supplies of public drinking water for hundreds of miles.  Growers clear native vegetation before planting and sometimes use miles of black plastic tubing to transport large volumes of water from creeks that are often dammed for irrigation.  The use of banned herbicides and pesticides by marijuana growers kill wildlife and competing vegetation.  This loss of vegetation allows rain water to erode the soil and wash poisons, human waste, and trash from the grow sites into streams and rivers. 

Here are some clues that you may have come across a marijuana cultivation site:

  • Sometimes marijuana smells like a skunk on hot days.
  • Hoses or drip lines located in unusual or unexpected places.
  • A well-used trail where there shouldn’t be one.
  • People standing along roads without vehicles present, or in areas where loitering appears unusual.
  • Grow sites are usually found in isolated locations, in rough steep terrain.
  • Camps containing cooking and sleeping areas with food, fertilizer, weapons, garbage, rat poison, and/or dead animals.
  • Small propane bottles, used to avoid the detection of wood smoke.
  • Individuals armed with rifles out of hunting season.

As soon as you become aware that you have come upon a cultivation site, back out immediately. Never engage the growers as these are extremely dangerous people. If you can identify a landmark or record a GPS coordinate, that’s very helpful. The growers may be present and may or may not know that you have found their grow site.

Get to a safe place and report as much detail about the location and incident as you can recall to any uniformed member of the Forest Service, BLM, or local sheriffs or police department.  Leave the way you came in, and make as little noise as possible.