Environmental Crimes Discovered at Illegal Cannabis Grows in Tehama and Shasta Counties

Illegal Water Diversions Removed and Pollution Documented

In April, wildlife officers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) conducted two investigations related to environmental crimes associated with illegal cannabis cultivation in southern Tehama County and western Shasta County.

Support was provided by CDFW Environmental Scientists, and the Sheriffs’ Departments of Trinity and Tehama counties.

“Both sites were illegally diverting water from stream channels with unseasonably low water levels,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “If left in place, these operations would have severely impacted water availability in the streams, which sensitive fish and wildlife species depend on for survival.”

On April 16 in Tehama County, officers served a search warrant and eradicated over 900 illegal cannabis plants. CDFW Environmental Scientists documented 10 environmental violations along North Fork Elder Creek, which included unscreened and unlawful water diversions, oil, sediment and nutrient pollution, and litter in and around nearby streams.

North Fork Elder Creek supports foothill yellow-legged frog and western pond turtle, California Species of Special Concern, as well as a variety of native fish species, all of which were observed during the investigation. Officers arrested two suspects for illegal cannabis cultivation and 10 counts of various environmental crimes. A formal complaint will be filed with the Tehama County District Attorney’s office.

On April 21, officers responded to a landowner complaint of a trespass cannabis grow on Lewiston Turnpike Road in Shasta County. Officers eradicated 1,950 illegal cannabis plants and CDFW Environmental Scientists documented illegal stream diversions and litter in and adjacent to state waters. One suspect was detained and released pursuant to Shasta County Jail COVID-19 protocols. A formal complaint will be filed with the Shasta County District Attorney’s office.

The public can report environmental crimes to the CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

###

Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891

Online Grant Program Workshop on April 19

images of before and after refuse removal

Who: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Cannabis Restoration Grant Program (CRGP)

What: CDFW staff will host an online workshop to provide an overview of the WebGrants application process for the current Watershed Remediation and Enhancement Solicitation and to answer any questions. Please see CDFW’s CRGP page for more details about the workshop.

When: Monday, April 19 from 10 to 11 a.m.

Where: Online Zoom Workshop. Register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZckce2rqDgoH9bt9Ubr6zJB26lOVSL3_Ew6

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Why: The application workshop is designed to help entities of all sizes navigate the WebGrants submission process. Grants through the CRGP are funded through California’s Environmental Restoration and Protection Account pursuant to Revenue and Taxation Code section 34019(f)(2), and may be used to fund the cleanup, remediation, and restoration of environmental damage in watersheds affected by cannabis cultivation and related activities, and to support local partnerships for this purpose.

Attendees are encouraged to view this online presentation to learn more about CRGP and available funding opportunities.

For questions on CDFW’s CRGP, please email canngrantprogram@wildlife.ca.gov.

###

Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891

CDFW’s Cannabis Grant Program Announces Upcoming Funding Opportunities for 2021 and Beyond

irrigation piping being airlifted out of remote location
2018 Cannabis Grant Cleanup Effort in Northern California

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced plans for upcoming funding opportunities for a variety of cannabis related projects statewide through the Cannabis Restoration Grant Program (CRGP).

CDFW has released a Draft Proposal Solicitation Notice for public review and comment. The draft solicitation includes funding opportunities in two priority categories statewide: (1) Cleanup and remediation of public lands impacted by illegal cannabis cultivation and (2) Watershed and/or community enhancements where either legal or illegal cannabis cultivation occurs.

CDFW will host an online workshop on March 24, 2021, at 11 a.m. to provide an overview of the draft solicitation, application requirements and to answer questions about this specific funding opportunity. See CDFW’s CRGP page for details about the workshop.

Additionally, CDFW is developing a new grant opportunity with a focus on assisting qualified cannabis growers. More details on this opportunity will be announced later this year.

“We are excited to engage with organizations of all sizes about their ideas and cannabis-related projects to benefit the environment,” said Jennifer Nguyen, CDFW’s Cannabis Environmental Program Manager. “We are interested to see how these financial resources will help the industry and are eager to listen and learn from our stakeholders.”

Grants through the CRGP are funded through California’s Environmental Restoration and Protection Account pursuant to Revenue and Taxation Code section 34019(f)(2), and may be used to fund the cleanup, remediation, and restoration of environmental damage in watersheds affected by cannabis cultivation and related activities, and to support local partnerships for this purpose.

View this online presentation to learn more about CRGP and available funding opportunities.

For questions on CDFW’s CRGP, please email canngrantprogram@wildlife.ca.gov.

###

Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891

Wildlife Officers Shut Down Illegal Cannabis Operation on CDFW Property

Armed Growers Stopped From Cultivating Thousands of Plants

Wildlife officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Marijuana Enforcement Team (MET) conducted a raid of a clandestine cannabis grow on the North Grasslands Wildlife Area, Gadwall Unit in Los Banos.

The property is home to dozens of species of nesting waterfowl, migratory birds, rabbits, pheasants, birds of prey, small rodents and native plants. Over 1,500 hunters and outdoor enthusiasts visit the property annually.

Nestled in the closed zone of the property, the growers constructed five hoop houses made from PVC pipe and wood that was covered with plastic tarps. The hoop houses were filled with 185 immature cannabis plants and the site had been prepared to plant several thousand more.

“This brazen attempt to hide in plain sight on CDFW property is a perfect example of the lengths people will go to grow illegal cannabis,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “This type of activity is a huge public safety threat and detrimental to the extensive bird populations that rely on the natural resources of this property.”

On Feb. 25, MET officers carefully entered the grow site and apprehended two men. One of the suspects was armed with a loaded semi-automatic .22 rifle and the other was armed with a loaded Beretta-style CO2 pellet pistol.

Several dead birds, including one Western Meadowlark were discovered within the grow site. Thousands of feet of black polyethylene pipe were stretched across the property and was siphoning water from the permanent wetlands in the closed zone. Officers also discovered dozens of dangerous pesticides and chemicals.

Over 2,560 lbs. of waste, chemicals and infrastructure was removed and taken to the landfill.

The two suspects were arrested and are being charged with eight felonies and 15 misdemeanors with the Merced County District Attorney’s office.

###

Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891

Over 50,000 Illegal Cannabis Plants Eradicated in Lake County

Forty Environmental Violations Document Abuse of Local Watershed

outdoor cannabis cultivation with irrigation hoses

On Aug. 4, wildlife officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) with support from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, California Department of Food and Agriculture and other allied agencies, served a search warrant spanning two parcels in the Scotts Valley area of Lakeport in Lake County.

The warrant stemmed from an investigation involving environmental damage associated with illegal commercial cannabis cultivation. The operation involved personnel from six separate agencies. This effort could not have been accomplished without this successful collaboration.

A records check confirmed that neither of the parcels were licensed by the state for commercial cannabis cultivation.

“An illegal cannabis cultivation operation of this magnitude has severe impacts to California’s natural resources and the legal cannabis industry. Unpermitted cannabis grows will not be tolerated especially those presenting such a huge environmental and public safety threat,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division.

On site, officers and staff eradicated 51,799 illegal cannabis plants, confiscated seven firearms, seized over $27,000 in cash and documented approximately 40 Fish and Game Code crimes.

Violations included garbage piled up near various waterways, numerous unpermitted water diversions, illegal grading of the landscape resulting in sediment discharge and stockpiles of chemicals near waterways. One cultivation site was built over an existing stream resulting in a modified channel into a ditch with polluted water. Each violation alone can have a detrimental environmental impact but combined are degrading entire watersheds at the expense of California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources and the habitats they depend upon for survival.

“CDFW is obligated, by statute, to protect California’s natural resources, which are held in trust by the state for use and enjoyment by the public,” said Jeremy Valverde, CDFW’s Cannabis Policy Director. “Large, illegal cultivation operations like these can create significant environmental impacts that can last years. We continue to encourage those wanting to cultivate commercially to become permitted and licensed.”

Twenty-six individuals were detained during the operation including two minors, a 16-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy, working at the site. Criminal charges will be filed with the Lake County District Attorney’s Office.

CDFW encourages the public to report illegal cannabis cultivation and environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or texting information to “TIP411” (847411).

###

Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891