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Guerilla Grows On Indian Reservation Spark Tribal Anger

Amid mounting concern about the ecological impacts of outdoor cannabis grows in California’s Emerald Triangle comes news of last week’s massive raid on the Yurok Indian Resolution in Humboldt Country.

The LA Times reports that California National Guard on July 21 joined more than a dozen other agencies to help Yurok tribal authorities uproot the grows. Tribal leaders say that grow ops have threatened the reservation’s water supply, harmed its salmon, and interfered with cultural ceremonies.

At the request of Yurok officials, officers served search warrants at several properties in and near the reservation along the Klamath River. Participating agencies in “Operation Yurok” included the Sheriff’s Drug Enforcement Unit, the North State Marijuana Investigation Team, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Land Management, as well as Yurok tribal police. Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke joined officers at their staging area at a hillside fire station, where he complained bitterly of the growers. “They’re stealing millions and millions of gallons of water and it’s impacting our ecosystem,” O’Rourke said. “We can’t no longer make it into our dance places, our women and children can’t leave the road to gather. We can’t hunt. We can’t live the life we’ve lived for thousands of years.”

And while growers once “brought their fertilizer in in batches in the dark,” O’Rourke said dump trucks now enter the reservation with impunity in broad daylight, using heavy equipment to carve roads through tribal land. Yurok authorities said tens of thousands of plants would likely be eradicated in the operation, chipped on-site.

The nearby Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation has seen similar raids in recent years. North Coast ecologists increasingly warn of impacts on fish and wildlife in the region. And while groups like the Emerald Growers Association have been pushing for industry standards for eco-friendly cannabis, the media have been having a field day scapegoating marijuana growers for California’s drought.

Cannabis advocates argue that legalization is exactly what would bring public oversight to the cannabis biz, as to any other industry, and keep growers from having to hide out on remote tribal and federal lands. But meanwhile, such ugly practices are earning lots of very bad press for Northern California’s cannabis economy. If this question is not addressed forthrightly, it is going to cost legalization efforts potential allies among ecologists and Native Americans.

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