Collecting trash is dangerous, dirty work to begin with, but imagine having to do it in the wilderness under threat of being shot by the generator of that trash. That’s the danger volunteers with the Northern California Wildlands Reclamation Coalition in Mendocino County, Calif., face as they work to clean up trash left behind by large-scale illegal marijuana growers who set up farm camps in the area’s largely unpopulated woodlands. After the growers abandon the sites (or are arrested), tons of camping supplies, drug paraphernalia, batteries, pesticides and other hazardous detritus are left behind to litter the forest, poison waterways, and endanger hunters, hikers and wildlife that might wander through.
Some sites are not as abandoned as they might at first appear, which is why every Coalition member carries a firearm. They take careful inventory of everything they collect and work closely with local law enforcement, reporting any significant finds. Items that can be recycled or donated are collected separately. All of the material is placed in large contractor bags and airlifted out by helicopter. A recent cleanup yielded five bags of 125 to 150 pounds each, plus 850 pounds of irrigation gear.
For obvious reasons, the final disposal point for much of this material is kept under wraps. On an unrelated note, large caravans of colorfully painted VW vans have been spotted congregating around a nearby incineration plant.
Source: California Watch