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Sequoia National Forest marijuana farms

Sometimes when I am photographing remote locations, I have bears on my mind (“bad” bears often get “relocated” from parks to more remote locations). Bears are dangerous, unpredictable, faster than I am :-) , excellent tree-climbers, and generally are not the solitary, people-avoiding animals that mountain lions are. Usually, though, I remember that humans are the most dangerous animals of the forest. Some of you backpackers, hunters, or hikers may want to think about that fact in relation to a danger of the deep woods that “made the news” this week.

John Walters, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, recently spoke from a portion of a marijuana farm in Sequoia National Forest, where 10,000 marijuana plants with a street value of $40 million were cultivated by members of a Mexican drug cartel. The news article reminded me of the July 2008 removal of 20,000 marijuana plants (with no arrests; one armed suspect was shot and killed) from the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Santa Cruz Mountains pot farm was discovered during firefighting operations for the Summit Fire in May.

In the ENTIRE Sequoia National Forest “Operation LOCCUST,” over a period of 8 days, 420,000 marijuana plants worth more than $1 billion (USD) were eradicated, according to Lieutenant Mike Boudreax of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. The danger to hikers is more related to the arrest of 38 people involved with tending and protecting the farms, and 29 automatic weapons, high-powered rifles, and other guns that were confiscated. The farms, though away from sequoia groves frequented by tourists, were 2-4-hour hikes from the nearest roads, which is, of course, well within the range of hikers and backpackers.

Sequoia National Forest is more than 350 miles from the border with Mexico, has 38 groves of giant sequoia trees that are thousands of years old, and covers 1.2 million acres of the Sierra Nevada. U.S. authorities are destroying elaborate gravity-fed irrigation systems as well as going after the human infrastructure, in collaboration with the Mexican government. Marijuana farms have apparently been established INSIDE the United States by the Mexican drug cartels in response to blockages of shipments across the border.

Please be careful in California’s forests.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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