Marijuana cultivation on California’s public lands by illicit commercial growers continues unabated. These commercial grow sites and the environmental degradation they cause is an ongoing problem in the Ventana region. When law enforcement personnel eradicate these sites, their first responsibility is to remove the contraband marijuana plants. Agency personnel do not always remove the trash generated by months of occupancy by the growers including foodstuffs, camping gear, irrigation tubing, garden tools, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and rat poison.
To address the environmental problem of the trash and agricultural chemicals abandoned on these sites, the VWA developed a program to clean up and restore these sites. All projects are done in partnership with the Los Padres National Forest Monterey Ranger District. The work generally entails a cleanup crew hiking into a particular site, bagging the trash and bundling the irrigation tubing to be hauled back to a trailhead on cargo backpacks. Forest Service pack stock is used when possible. This work is similar to restoration work the VWA completed in the Willow Creek drainage in 2004. At this writing, the Monterey Ranger District has restricted volunteer access to grow sites due to hazardous material and safety concerns, but the VWA will continue to advocate for involvement in future cleanup efforts.