Rangers raid Death Valley pot farm

Rangers raid Death Valley pot farmPictured: Shown are a few of the more than 4,000 marijuana plants being grown illegally in Death Valley National Park. — Courtesy photo


National Park Service rangers recently raided an illegal marijuana growing operation in Death Valley National Park.

Hikers encountered three men installing irrigation hose near a spring in Hanaupah Canyon. The hikers initially thought the men were working on a National Park Service project, so they asked them what they were doing. One of the men responded, “Growing marijuana. You won’t tell the cops, will you?”

National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management rangers raided the site on July 3. The rangers found more than 4,000 marijuana plants in four garden plots. No workers were at the location at the time of the raid.

“Even though California and Nevada have passed laws legalizing marijuana sale, it remains illegal at the federal level,” said Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds. “Our biggest concerns in Death Valley are that grow sites decimate vegetation around springs, poison wildlife and are dangerous for the public.”

Native plants in lush areas near desert springs provide critical habitat and food for bighorn sheep, birds and other wildlife. The workers had cleared away vegetation to make room for their crops.

Each marijuana plant can use up to six gallons of water per day, and that water was being delivered by a network of irrigation tubing from the springs. The rangers’ greatest concern was finding carbofuran, a pesticide which is highly toxic to humans and wildlife.

People hiking to infrequently visited regions of Death Valley National Park should be aware of the risk of finding a marijuana grow site, which could be defended by the growers.

Hikers should be on the alert for irrigation hoses, fertilizer, signs of digging, unusual litter and anything or anyone that seems out of place. If a hiker finds a grow site, he or she should leave the site as quickly as possible and notify the NPS at 760-786-2330.

Hiking to popular destinations, such as Golden Canyon, Mosaic Canyon and Telescope Peak, remains safe.

Story First Published: 2018-07-20