The Forest Service is advising hikers, campers, birdwatchers, and other forest visitors to be mindful of an “extremely dangerous” group of forest users: marijuana growers.
The National Forests of North Carolina today issued a press release addressing the public safety and ecosystem threats posed by marijuana cultivation. NFNC press officer Stevin Westcott tells Xpress that marijuana seizures in North Carolina during fiscal year 2010 totaled 38,202 plants; that was a big increase over the number of plants seized the year before, when the total was just 3,010 plants. “There was a large crop discovered on the Pisgah National Forest near Hot Springs last year,” says Westcott, “so that seizure really ratcheted up the total number.”
Issued by the agency’s central Washington, D.C. office, the release advises forest visitors who think they may have stumbled upon a marijuana growing area to take steps to protect themselves and to report what they find.
The release offers “some clues that you may have come across a marijuana cultivation site,” including:
Sometimes marijuana smells like a skunk on hot days.
Hoses or drip lines located in unusual or unexpected places.
A well-used trail where there shouldn’t be one.
People standing along roads without vehicles present, or in areas where loitering appears unusual.
Grow sites are usually found in isolated locations, in rough steep terrain.
Camps containing cooking and sleeping areas with food, fertilizer, weapons, garbage, rat poison and/or dead animals.
Small propane bottles, used to avoid the detection of wood smoke.
Individuals armed with rifles out of hunting season.
The announcement continues:
“As soon as you become aware that you have come upon a cultivation site, back out immediately. Never engage the growers as these are extremely dangerous people. If you can identify a landmark or record a GPS coordinate, that’s very helpful. The growers may be present and may or may not know that you have found their grow site.
“Get to a safe place and report as much detail about the location and incident as you can recall to any uniformed member of the Forest Service or to your local law enforcement agency. Leave the way you came in, and make as little noise as possible.”