Green - Pot Growers Harming California Environment
California's endangered Humboldt Marten and other species are facing new pressures as marijuana farming expands in the far north of the state.
The Humboldt Marten isn't the sort of animal one might expect to be this close to extinction. Deceptively cute, the weasel-like critter is tough as nails: It is able to face down an entire beehive just to get some honey; it eats bugs, lizards, voles, squirrels; and it lives in the mountains where low hanging branches, downed logs, and other forest ground cover protect it from larger predators. But there are only 300 left in the wild.
One reason is because of increasing development in what was once timber camps and small, remote villages. But the Humboldt Marten's territory sits in the same real estate where most of California's illegal marijuana is grown. And with legalization of recreational marijuana, the farms are expanding.
In Humboldt County alone, there are as many as 15,000 cannabis cultivation sites on private property, and no one knows the number of illegal or "trespass grows" are hidden away on public or tribal lands. This causes the loss of forest habitat for all animals, and it's made worse by the way growers protect their crops. Many use anticoagulant rat poisons to keep rats and mice from chewing through irrigation lines or eating their food supplies.
The poison is showing up in the food chain. There hasn't been a study on the Martens yet, but parallel species are harmed. The deaths of a large number of Fishers, another weasel-like forest-dwelling mammal closely related to martens, have been directly attributed to rat poison used by cannabis farmers.
Tests show that as many as 70 percent of Northern Spotted Owls found dead had rat poison in their systems. The conservation status of the Northern Spotted Owl, now considered threatened, was the reason that old growth logging was halted in the Pacific Northwest during the 1990s.
The Humboldt Marten is in even more danger, and California might soon declare it endangered.