CDFW Pollution Patrols Result in Arrests, Cleanup of Dry Creek Dump Site

A two-year effort by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to monitor a popular northern California “dumping ground” for hazardous materials has been very successful, resulting in 34 citations, multiple towed vehicles and three felony arrests over the last 24 months.

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Since early 2018, CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division has received many complaints regarding illegal dumping of petroleum products, garbage and various hazardous materials in and around Dry Creek near the border of Placer and Sacramento counties. This remote area, which is home to many fish and wildlife species, was regularly being used as a trash dumping site for everything from broken household appliances to hazardous waste and stolen cars.

“We set up a surveillance patrol one night, simply hiding nearby and waiting to see if someone would come by and dump their waste,” said lead investigator Warden Ryan Hanson of CDFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response. “At first we weren’t sure if the effort would pay off … but it paid off immediately.”

After their initial success, Warden Hanson and fellow wildlife officers set up 19 more pollution patrols in the area. It quickly became clear that the location was a hotspot for illegal activity, and officers rarely had a dull night.

Not all of the law enforcement actions taken were pollution related. During one of the patrols, wildlife officers observed a vehicle stop briefly right in the middle of the road before driving off.  When the vehicle left, Warden Hanson drove to the spot expecting to find some type of garbage strewn about. What he found was worse. Two dogs had been ejected from the vehicle and abandoned. Muzzles and leashes were still attached to both dogs, which would have prevented them from eating had they not been found by the officers. Warden Hanson stayed with the dogs while Warden Perry Schultz  sped after and detained the suspect. With the help of Placer County animal control officers and staff from the Loomis Basin Veterinary Clinic, the dogs received veterinary care right away. While one did not survive due to its extremely poor condition, the other responded to veterinary treatment and recovered over the following months, eventually being adopted into a loving home. The individual who dumped the dogs pled to a felony charge of cruelty to animals. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, a 120-day suspended jail sentence and 40 hours of community service. He must also pay $4,000 restitution and has been given a 10-year ban on owning any dogs or pets.

Other notable cases include three separate instances of negligent discharge of a firearm, where officers witnessed suspects shooting from their vehicles in the direction of surrounding residences. In all three instances, officers stopped the suspects and took them into custody after confiscating the weapon. A total of four firearms were involved – all of which were either stolen or illegally possessed.

Yet another case involved a fire that was started near the illegal dump site. Wildlife officers had to deploy fire extinguishers and summon help from the fire department to keep the flames from approaching a residence nearby.

Throughout the duration of this effort, wildlife officers watched illegal activity unfolding right in front of them. In the dead of night, they watched individuals dispose of used motor oil and other petroleum products, paint, paint thinner and other hazardous materials, as well as tires, mattresses, construction materials and other waste. Much of the dumping occurred in Dry Creek or ditches that emptied into Dry Creek. In each case the violators were contacted, told to remove the trash they had dumped and issued citations with a written promise to appear in court for the offense.

“It’s never ok to use public property as your personal landfill,” said Warden Hanson. “It was gratifying to catch these individuals in the act, to stop them and send a message that this behavior is criminal and extremely damaging to the environment. It will not be tolerated.”

CDFW thanks the Sacramento and Placer County District Attorney’s Offices for their effort to prosecute these cases.

More information about how to properly dispose of hazardous waste in Placer County or Sacramento County can be found online.

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

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Media Contacts:
Warden Ryan Hanson, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (805) 440-2593
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 508-7095

CDFW Celebrates Earth Day

Monday, April 22 is the 49th annual Earth Day and the 2019 theme is “Protect Our Species.” The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) works to protect our state’s native species every day of every year.

CDFW performs and oversees wildlife habitat conservation and restoration to maintain healthy ecosystems throughout the state. No matter where a native plant, fish or animal lives—in a marine, brackish or fresh water environment, on land, in trees or underground—all living things need clean, healthy habitats.

Some people see a wetland, grassland, desert or any undeveloped landscape and think, “There’s nothing there.” But there are numerous plant, animal and fish species living there, hidden underwater, underground, under rocks and in rock crevices. Those “unused” spaces are home to many species that are part of the elaborate web of life on which all living things depend.

In the past, people thought natural resources—like fresh, potable water—were unlimited. We know better now, yet still produce millions of tons of garbage each year and often dispose of it in ways that harm wildlife. With more than seven billion people on the planet, such a careless lifestyle causes irreparable damage to the very ecosystems all forms of life need to live.

It’s easy to reduce, reuse and recycle the products we use each day. And when we do, our behavior benefits wildlife as much as it does ourselves.

Californians have been celebrating Earth Day with festivals, learning opportunities, and activities such as trail and habitat clean-up and restoration since 1970. It’s a day to think about how each of us affects our world’s limited natural resources, and what we can do as individuals or as groups to tread lightly on the Earth, make up for past damage and restore what we can.

For links to environmentally healthy living suggestions, Earth Day festivals and other activities throughout California, please visit CalRecycle’s Earth Day webpage.

CDFW staff will participate in Earth Day activities around the state, and would be pleased to discuss ways we can conserve wildlife with you at any of these events.

Saturday, April 20
Newport Beach: Upper Newport Bay Earth Day event, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center. CDFW ecological reserve Science Discovery booth.

Fresno: Earth Day festival in Radio Park. Booth with animal mounts and information about CDFW and volunteering. Live music, green vendors, EV test drives, food, kids’ activities.

April 22 and 23
Rancho Cordova: The Nimbus Hatchery preschool story time program, Tot Time, will feature an Earth Day theme.

Sunday, April 28
Sacramento: Earth Day Festival at Southside Park. CDFW will have hands-on children’s activities and the Salmon Wheel of Fortune.

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Media Contact:
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

CDFW and Partners Raid Santa Cruz County Marijuana Grow

Officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and other agencies arrested two suspects, cut down marijuana plants and removed hazardous materials from a Santa Cruz county waterway on July 15.

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Acting on an anonymous tip on the CalTIP line, wildlife officers — with assistance from CAL FIRE, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department and Santa Cruz County Code Enforcement — raided an illegal marijuana cultivation site in the upper reaches of the south fork of Vicente Creek off Robles Drive near Bonny Doon. The site had been set up on private property without the landowner’s permission and was diverting water from the creek.

Officers arrested two male suspects and cut down and removed 180 fully mature marijuana plants with an approximate value of $360,000. Officers also found and removed several pounds of hashish, fertilizer, dozens of butane canisters used to manufacture concentrated cannabis, and other harmful materials that cause direct damage to the environment of Vicente Creek. CDFW officers conducted a full reclamation of the site.

“These marijuana cultivation sites are not only illegal but the trash left behind causes tremendous damage to the environment,” said CDFW Assistant Chief Brian Naslund. “Our officers are working hard around the state to find and remove these cultivation sites, keep harmful chemicals from entering state waters and ensure public safety.”

Marijuana cultivation is becoming an increasing problem in California as the historic drought wears on.

“Illegal marijuana growers steal substantial amounts of water, exacerbating our severe drought conditions,” said Naslund. “Marijuana plants use six to eight gallons of water per plant, per day, and are a direct hazard to wildlife that eats the plants.”

Law enforcement officials are also concerned that that hikers and walkers could be in danger if they accidentally come across a marijuana cultivation site. Illegal growers often carry weapons.

The suspects were taken into custody and will be charged with multiple violations including streambed alteration, pollution and placement of hazardous materials on the property of another.

The lower Vicente Creek is the southernmost salmon stream in California. It is a historic waterway that supports both anadromous steelhead and endangered Central Coast Coho salmon.

CalTIP (Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters) is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide CDFW with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, please call 1-888-DFG-CALTIP (888-334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Media Contact:
Lt. John Nores, CDFW Enforcement, (408) 591-5174
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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CDFW Director Makes Statement on Legal Victory

Media Contact: Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham made the following statement after Judge William Orrick of the U.S District Court, Northern District dismissed a case regarding CDFW’s fish stocking program:

“In an era in which some prefer to litigate instead of pursue decision-making through the public process, I’m encouraged by this legal victory. Though we expect an appeal that could jeopardize our legacy statewide fish stocking program, it’s a big win for today.”

The court found that CDFW’s practice of stocking fish into lakes in California does not amount to adding a pollutant to the water in violation of the Clean Water Act, as alleged by two nongovernmental organizations, one from Montana and one from Oregon.

The dismissal order can be found at www.courthousenews.com/2013/11/08/fish.pdf.

CDFW Responding to Cold Creek Spill

MEDIA ADVISORY                                           

 Contact:
Alexia Retallack: (cell) 916-952-3317

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is responding to a tanker truck crash that spilled gasoline and diesel on State Route 38 near Cold Creek in San Bernardino County. CDFW personnel are currently assessing damage and wildlife impacts.

For incident updates, visit Facebook.com/CalSpillWatch and Twitter at @Calspillwatch

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