The impact of Humboldt County's marijuana industry was the topic of discussion at a recent gathering of the Buckeye group at the Elks Lodge in Eureka.
Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey told the group he is "sickened at what is happening here," referring to the negative impacts of marijuana, not just on the natural resources but on the community as a whole. He described the amount of black plastic pipe found at marijuana grow sites as "staggering," saying his department has found thousands of miles of piping. He also talked about the damage caused by illegal stream diversions to provide a source of water for the grow sites.
Of more concern, according to Downey, is the amount of poison and toxic substances being found at grow sites.
"It's getting to the point where deputies will have to suit up before going out," Downey said. "The poisons are getting into the soil and into the watersheds, and they are also killing animals."
He said many of the insecticides and rodenticides being used are outlawed in the United States.
The sheriff said the current growers' level of sophistication far exceeds the original back-to-the-land growers of the 60s, 70s, or 80s.
Downey said his main focus is on the large commercial growers, and voiced his frustration over a lack of both state and federal support for marijuana eradication efforts in Humboldt County -- saying he hoped for more coordination between all levels of government.
Buckeye board member and rancher Elizabeth Marshall-Maybee of the Marshall Ranch near Bridgeville noted that when smaller parcels of old-time ranches come up for sale, the only interested buyers are pot growers. She also said there were problems finding young people to work as ranch hands, when they can make much more money growing pot.
The Buckeye group was established in 2000 as the Buckeye Conservancy, and is a group of family farm, ranch, and forest landowners in the North Coast region of California, dedicated to the promotion of those ideals and policies that support the ecological and economic sustainability of natural resources and open space.