More than 64,000 cannabis plants seized from illegal outdoor grows in California watersheds

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The investigations were spurred, in part, to conserve salmon and steelhead habitat.

None of the sites investigated were properly licensed and numerous sites were interfering with local watersheds and spawning streams

In a span of four days this month, deputies with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Marijuana Enforcement Team removed more than 64,000 illegally grown cannabis plants.

The seizures came from multiple grow sites and also resulted in 79 environmental violations, according to a statement from the HCSO, per The Times-Standard.

Among the 79 environmental violations, 42 relate to water diversions, 24 were for depositing trash in waterways and 13 were for water pollution.

Environmental scientists were also on the ground with officers, tracking damage to the area. The investigations were spurred, in part, to conserve salmon and steelhead habitat, according to the news release.

At least one person, 27-year-old Bryant Randall Hall, was arrested in connection to the illegal grows.

Officers secured a search warrant after Hall allegedly fired shots in the direction of investigators. He was found to be in possession of an AK-47, a handgun and high-capacity magazines, according to police. Authorities also found a large water diversion on the property.

In May, California’s Siskiyou County attempted to shut off the taps for illegal grows by restricting where water trucks can go. According to Ed Valenzuela, a supervisor for Siskiyou County, there has been “a huge proliferation of illegal grows” in the county over the last few years.

Located in the northernmost part of California and sharing a border with Oregon, the area was classified as being in “extreme drought” last year.

Researchers with the University of California Berkley Cannabis Research Center recently found that many legal grows use less water than initially thought and that the “notoriety cannabis has received as a threat to water resources” relates to “early case studies of illicit cultivation in watersheds home to threatened populations of salmon and other aquatic species.”

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