During the week of August 9-12, 2021, deputies with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Enforcement Team (MET) conducted multiple investigations into illegal cannabis cultivation in watersheds determined to be critical spawning streams for spring chinook salmon, fall chinook salmon, coho salmon, trout and steelhead.
Numerous parcels were investigated during the service of the search warrants in the South Fork Trinity River, East Branch, Steelhead Creek, Mad River, Van Duzen and Little Larrabee Creek/Van Duzen watersheds. None of the parcels investigated possessed the required county permit and state license to cultivate cannabis commercially.
In total, deputies eradicated over 64,000 illegally grown cannabis plants and documented approximately 79 environmental violations, including 42 water diversion violations, 24 depositing trash into a waterway violations and 13 water pollution violations. During the service of the search warrants, environmental scientists and law enforcement found and documented severe damage to the watersheds. Environmental scientists found numerous deceased wildlife and located Coastal Giant Salamander larvae in a water diversion pool.
At one of the parcels, deputies located a pregnant flying squirrel that had been nailed to a wall on the side of a building. The squirrel appeared to have been killed within 48 hours prior to the search warrant. The squirrel was sent to a CDFW laboratory for testing as it appeared to have been poisoned.
Illegal cultivation activities during a drought year put an inordinate amount of pressure on already strained fish and wildlife resources. The HCSO Marijuana Enforcement Team’s eradication efforts and partners’ environmental investigations help to conserve salmon and steelhead habitat critical for species survival.