Sharing Information  |  Encouraging Engagement

I took notes during tonight’s “Science on Tap” presentation and thought I would share here along with other updates I provide regarding county matters.  While the information provided was not all focused on Trinity County, our area is definitely represented in the findings and the great work being done.

The presentation was delivered by team leader – Dr. Greta Wengert.  My estimate is that well over 60 people were in attendance for the presenation and Q&A session.  As with other “Science on Tap” presentations I’ve experienced, the audience was filled with interested parties and the presentation was informatiive and enlightening.

My notes don’t do the presentation justice, but here they are…

  • This presentation was about illegal cannabis operations on public lands and focused primariliy on sites led by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs).
  • Fisher (an animal I wasn’t familiar with) was the first listed endangered species with the listing identifying illegal cannabis cultivation on public lands as one of the significant risks needed to be addressed
    • One of the most impacted species
    • Detected at most sites… often in trash piles or kitchen areas
    • Grow site females produced .8 kits (offspring)
    • Control females produced 2.3 kits
    • Fisher populations appear to be using areas around grow sites for breeding
  • Owls also show high levels of exposure
  • Illegal site access ranges from extremely easy to a more than 8 hour hike
  • Trash is often buried under piles of organic material… dating back years as you dig down through layers
  • Sources of problems range from rodenticides, to fertilizers, to trash from living in the wild
  • Anticoagulant Rodenticides (AR)
    • Moves through food chain to predators, higher predators, scavengers
    • Exposure within sites studied in NorCal went from 72% to 84% in 2015, and to 100% in 2017
  • Thousands of sites remain on public lands
  • Estimated water use
    • For frame of reference – Humboldt County data suggests that 6 gallons per day times 150 days = 900 gallons are used per plant per season
    • From their studies, 9.5 gallons per day per plant are diverted (on average) for public lands operations
    • One site example – 3,360 gallons per hour, 29.4 million gallons per year
  • Chemicals per site
    • Fertilizers
      • Soluble – 900lb per site
      • Liquid – 9 gallons
    • Pesticides – 11 lbs
    • Rodenticides – …
      • The numbers jumped dramatically in 2021
    • Carbofuran – banned for ALL legal uses in the United States, Canada, and The European Union
      • 1/4 teaspoon can kill an African Lion
      • 76% of sites had carbofuran or other banned pesticides – 2021
    • Applied to plants and to food items (to attract and kill animals)
  • Cannabis, Soil and Water Contamination
    • 165 sites – 1,532 total samples
    • Water – 16% of sites had contamination
      • Most prevalent in water just below the cultivation site
    • Soil – 60% of sites had contamination
    • Plant – 47% of sites had contamination
  • Animals
    • 90 dead animals discovered out of 85 sites
      • Number shot – 47
      • Suspected poisoning – 24
      • Confirmed poisoning – 19
    • 54% of locations had dead animals
  • The way forward – Reclamation – priority 1
    • Hazardous waste removal
    • Remove all trash, infrastructure, waste
    • Removed over 10,000 lbs of grow site infrastructure, trash, and irrigation pipe in 2022 (from 7 sites)

From the Q&A Session:

  • How are sites selected by illegal operators?
    • Appears to be a lot of information being passed along from previous cultivators
  • Examples of contaminated animals found showing food chain impact
    • One location – found Fox, Turkey Vulture, Flies… all dead
  • Strong variations in the amount of chemicals used in sites
  • Have seen a drop in the number of delectable illegal sites in the last year
  • Primary sources of water for the illegal grows are headwater streams – often finding sources completely exhausted by the cultivation
  • Hunter-killed game – they have detected one (in 25-30) deer that had a contaminated liver. Even in the one with liver contamination, they did not detect poison in other parts of the deer studied.  Encourage people not to eat the liver as this is where poisons would accumulate
  • They have never seen domestic animals on public lands operations
  • Recovered (non-hazardous) material goes to local dumps.  Very difficult to find recyclers.  Hazardous materials have special (and expensive) handling requirements.
  • Illegal operations often take place near sites that were burned.

Next month’s presentation will be – “Rare Plants of Trinity County.”  Science on Tap takes place on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 PM.  Our own Trinity County Resource Conservation District is the organizer of these great events.

You can use this link to check out the RCD’s calendar of events… including “Science on Tap” presentations.

Sharing Information  |  Encouraging Engagement