xHgGrtG-show-poster2x3-aXpIxNN.png

Artbound

Start watching
Tending Nature poster 2021

Tending Nature

Start watching
IYhnPQZ-show-poster2x3-Ytk6YwX.png

Southland Sessions

Start watching
RYQ2PZQ-show-poster2x3-OGargou.jpg

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
E5VnHdZ-show-poster2x3-PrXshoo.png

City Rising

Start watching
QraE2nW-show-poster2x3-uY3aHve.jpg

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

From Pot to Not: How Sequoia and Kings Canyon Extinguished its Weed Problem

Marijuana cultivation in Sequoia National Park in 2009 | Photo: Courtesy National Park Service
Marijuana cultivation in Sequoia National Park in 2009 | Photo: Courtesy National Park Service
socal-connected-story-connect

This story has been published in tandem with a segment for KCET's award-winning TV show "SoCal Connected." Watch it here now.

A few years ago, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was overrun with illegal marijuana growth sites. Trees were cut down and destroyed. Water was dammed and reoriented to help cultivate hidden pot plants. Growers would use illegal pesticides, herbicides, and rodenticides on the land, killing off endangered species and damaging local resources, according to park officials.

In 2010 alone, the parks' Marijuana Interdiction Group task forces destroyed some 42,000 plants, or about $169 million worth of weed, National Park Service data shows. Since 2002, they've destroyed nearly 241,000 plants -- some $545 million of marijuana.

But the two abutting parks, which are operated under the same management, haven't seen a new marijuana site in two years -- an accomplishment officials attribute to thorough foot patrols and deterring tactics that seek signs of planting early on and squash them before the plants have a chance to grow.

Marijuana cultivation by the numbers. Click through for larger image. | Infographic: Alex Savakis/KCET
Marijuana cultivation by the numbers. Click through for larger image. | Infographic: Alex Savakis/KCET

"We do a lot of early season operations and high profile patrols on canyon roads," said Todd Bonds, Marijuana Interdiction Group supervisor for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. "We discourage them from even starting to plant because we want to reduce resource damage before it starts."

Keeping the parks clean is a concerted effort. Sequoia and Kings Canyon authorities work to educate visitors and employees and raise awareness of the environmental damage caused by illegal sites. People are now increasingly reporting seeing potential marijuana sites, Bonds says.

Growing tactics have also changed, he adds -- sites moved away from the mountains to areas like California's Central Valley and Fresno, where people can grow pot under medicinal marijuana laws. And the problem persists in California's national forests where lack of funding and more acres to watch over are unmet challenges.

While illegal marijuana growth on public lands has been around for some 30 years (and is worst on the West Coast), the parks were hit hardest by the plants around 2007, Bonds says. Sequoia and Kings Canyon had the worst pot problem among western national parks when Congress granted additional funds to counter illegal growth in those areas.

That increase in funding led the parks to create the Marijuana Interdiction Group -- a group of rangers dedicated to fighting marijuana cultivation.

"It all comes down to money," Bonds says. "People look at the bottom line, but when you get out to the field you see this is about damage to the environment. The more people you have, the more results you get."

Support Provided By
Support Provided By
Read More
un mazo de juez de madera

Justicia retrasada: tribunales abrumados por el atraso de la pandemia

Desde la manutención de los hijos hasta el fraude de seguros, los casos judiciales se retrasan en todo California. Solo la mitad de los casos civiles y penales se resolvieron el verano pasado en comparación con las cifras anteriores a la pandemia. “La justicia no se ha cerrado. La justicia se ha ralentizado”, según un grupo de abogados.
A gavel on a table

Justice Delayed: Courts Overwhelmed by Pandemic Backlog

From child support to insurance fraud, court cases are delayed throughout California. Only half as many civil and criminal cases were resolved last summer compared with pre-pandemic numbers. “Justice has not shut down. Justice has slowed down,” according to an attorneys’ group.
People pull up in their vehicles for Covid-19 vaccines in the parking lot of The Forum in Inglewood, California on January 19, 2021. | FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

L.A. County Expands COVID Vaccines to Residents 65 And Older

L.A. County began scheduling COVID-19 vaccination appointments for those aged 65 and older today, but limited supplies and uncertainty about future allocations has left the inoculation effort shrouded in doubt.