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Yosemite National Park Rangers and National Park Service Agents, with assistance from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, eradicated 4,735 marijuana plants valued at nearly $19 million from within the park yesterday.
Marijuana cultivation is the most significant illegal and destructive activity occurring within national parks. For national parks, it is not a question of public policy or legalization, it is about the intentional misuse of our most treasured natural resources. The growing activity results in degradation to the landscape that includes tree and vegetation clearing, use of various chemicals and fertilizers that pollute the land and contribute to food chain contamination, and construction of ditches and crude dams to divert streams and other water sources with irrigation equipment. Human waste and garbage left behind after a completed harvest also occur.
Rangers are continually working to identify signs of cultivation within the park through training and assistance from co-workers, as well as the public, in reporting any unusual activity. Marijuana garden eradication involves a considerable amount of logistical support. Items removed from the area included nearly 400 pounds of fertilizer, 3,000 feet of irrigation hose, and 200 pounds of human trash. The human footprint created by these operations is a direct threat to wildlife, such as bears, which are attracted to the food and other objects that are found in the area. Rangers, resource specialists, and GIS staff collaborated to bring together technology, science, and operations to identify ways of locating, interdicting, and removing marijuana cultivation within the park.
“Yesterday’s operation reaffirms our commitment that Yosemite remains safe for visitors, that the park will not accept these incursions, and organized growers will not profit from these activities”, stated Chief Ranger Steve Shackelton.
The recent marijuana operation Save Our Sierras, a project of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, demonstrates how widespread the abuse of public lands for criminal profit can become. Mexican drug trafficking organizations continue to exploit public lands to grow marijuana.
Two suspects were observed in the area and fled before eradication. No arrests were made in yesterday’s operation.