Illegal marijuana is not only ruining the minds of America's youth, it's also ruining America's national forests.
According to CBS News, places like the San Bernardino National Forest (home to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear) are being polluted with "thousands of pounds of trash and numerous toxic chemicals" due to a high presence of illegal pot farms. Last year, federal narcs "destroyed more than 1.4 million marijuana plants."
In San Bernardino, the presence of illegal farms is so dense that "federal agents searching for marijuana are sometimes lifted from place to place by helicopter."
Dan Briot of the U.S. Forest Service, who is overseeing an undercover operation, said the situation has created severe environmental damage.
"We have a marijuana garden down here with unknown number of plants and as of right now an unknown number of suspects," he said. "The environmental damage is huge."
One sting operation on a major crop collected 50 pounds of ready-made pot and at least 5,000 plants. Destroying the plants has proven to be a difficult task since they are fed by an intricate irrigation system and grow beneath the trees.
"The people growing the marijuana created a makeshift reservoir in the national forest by diverting water from a nearby natural stream," reports CBS News. "The problem almost isn't so much the marijuana, it's the damage that they're doing to the forest."
Growers do damage to the forest in various ways, from chopping down vegetation to create their pot farms to using banned pesticides like carbofuran, the use of which creates a "toxic waste dump."
"Just a small amount of the chemical can kill wildlife and further denigrate an area that includes a campsite filled with trash," CBS News laments. "It's the kind of damage done by illegal marijuana cultivation on public lands throughout the West."
Approximately 400 illegal farms are found each year, but Dan Briot says that barely skims the surface. For every one that agencies find, there are probably two or three more they missed.