Marijuana farming deforestation in northern California, a Google Earth view (video)

I was watching a very cool video on Mother Jones’ Web site about a guy who used Google Earth to show marijuana farming’s devastating effect on forests in northern California.  Basically, the pot farmers are razing the forest.

So I thought it might be fun to pull up Google Earth and try to find some pot farms of my own in northern California, and what do you know, it’s relatively easy.  I made a quick video of three likely farms I found.  You can easily see how the forests have been cut down for each of the enterprises.  Here’s my video, and after that some more info on how marijuana farms are wreaking havoc with the environment in California.

The LA Times reports that there’s been a negative water impact to the marijuana farms as well:

The marijuana boom that came with the sudden rise of medical cannabis in California has wreaked havoc on the fragile habitats of the North Coast and other parts of California. With little or no oversight, farmers have illegally mowed down timber, graded mountaintops flat for sprawling greenhouses, dispersed poisons and pesticides, drained streams and polluted watersheds.

Because marijuana is unregulated in California and illegal under federal law, most growers still operate in the shadows, and scientists have little hard data on their collective effect. But they are getting ever more ugly snapshots.

A study led by researchers at UC Davis found that a rare forest carnivore called a fisher was being poisoned in Humboldt County and near Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada.

The team concluded in its July report that the weasel-like animals were probably eating rodenticides that marijuana growers employ to keep animals from gnawing on their plants, or they were preying on smaller rodents that had consumed the deadly bait. Forty-six of 58 fisher carcasses the team analyzed had rat poison in their systems.

It’s kind of amazing. You think of pot smokers as being more progressive (I’d be curious if that’s really true – in the poll below you can see that marijuana supporters are more progressive, at least), and then you see the environmental devastation being wrought by this progressive liberalization:

Democrats narrowly oppose legalizing marijuana (48-46) and Republicans overwhelmingly oppose legalizing marijuana (70-25). Yet Independents, including majorities of both Independent-leaning Democrats and Independent-leaning Republicans favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use 71-28 and 53-46 respectively.

UPDATE: A number of folks have noted in the comments that these operations are likely illegal.  They would argue that this is one more argument in favor of legalization – so that the industry could be regulated, and these kind of illegal, environmentally-unsound operations could be put out of business.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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