LaMalfa Pushes Federal Agencies to Stop Marijuana Grows on Public Lands

Jul 12, 2017
Press Release

(Washington, DC) – Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) issued the following statement after sending letters to Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. In the letters, LaMalfa asks the agencies to assist in combating illegal marijuana growers on federal lands.

LaMalfa said: “Illegal marijuana grows have an extremely detrimental impact on our public lands, causing severe damage to our environment and creating an unsafe atmosphere for the public who wish to enjoy the land. Drug cartels have created large-scale operations on federal lands which illegally divert stream water, dump tons of illegal toxicants and pollutants, and harm the local wildlife. These sites are often protected by heavily armed cartel members which pose a serious safety risk to those who utilize our public lands for hunting, fishing, and recreational activities – as well as the Forest Service and BLM staff who patrol the forests. It is imperative that the federal government address this problem in order to make our forests safe again for the public to enjoy.”

The letters sent to Secretary Perdue and Secretary Zinke note the following:

  • Miles of illegal irrigation lines divert water from nearby streams and threaten water supply as well as endanger nearby species.
  • Hundreds of pounds of illegal pesticides and toxicants cause widespread pollution and destruction of forests – also affecting wildlife and game.
  • Armed drug cartel members pose a serious danger to families, hunters, fishermen, recreation enthusiasts, as well as Forest Service and BLM employees who patrol the land.
  • In California alone, more than 1,600 illegal weapons were seized annually from 2013-2015 at illegal marijuana grow sites.

Rep. LaMalfa speaks on the House Floor on the importance of combatting illegal marijuana growers on public lands. [YouTube]


Full text of the letter to Secretary Perdue is below:

The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20250


Dear Secretary Perdue,

We write today regarding the detrimental impacts illegal marijuana grow operations have on public lands. These illegal grow operations cause irreparable damage to our environment and an unsafe atmosphere for the public and for U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) staff.

The destruction caused by illegal water diversions, pesticide use, grading of the terrain, and human waste have devastating impacts on our land and wildlife in western states.  Miles of irrigation lines illegally divert water from nearby streams, impacting water supply and threatening aquatic species.  The hundreds of pounds of illegal toxicants and pollutants used cause widespread destruction to our forests. In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) studied the effects of marijuana cultivation toxicants on fishers and northern spotted owls.  The study found that all fishers tested in California within an 11-month period tested positive for poison and that seven out of ten northern spotted owls tested positive for contaminants. The preliminary results of a separate study being done by regional hunting groups in Northern California are showing that game animals have been contaminated by these toxicants as well. Protecting our federal lands from this type of environmental degradation and pollution should be a priority. 

In many western states, drug cartels are using the network of resources our national forests have to engage in large-scale illegal grow operations.  These criminals come carrying the means to protect their assets from individuals that approach their illegal grow sites.  The Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program Statistical Report put out by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) shows that in California alone, more than 1,600 illegal weapons were seized annually in 2013, 2014 and 2015 at illegal marijuana grow sites.  This creates a considerable safety risk to USFWS and BLM staff patrolling our national forests, as well as to the public.  Families and outdoor enthusiasts that enjoy utilizing our public lands for hunting, fishing, camping and recreating could unknowingly expose themselves to danger by innocently stumbling across one of these illegal grow operations that is being protected by individuals with weapons.

Protecting our public lands from these destructive environmental threats, and making sure our forests are safe for the public, is of utmost concern. According to the DEA Cannabis Eradication Program, total annual suppression costs in 2015 amounted to nearly $30 million nationwide, an increase of 10% from the previous calendar year.

While confronting the challenges of illegal marijuana cultivation on our public lands is a large undertaking, it is extremely important that this matter be addressed by the federal government.   We therefore ask that the Department of Agriculture make illegal marijuana cultivation enforcement a top priority.  The Department must act to eradicate illegal grow sites, address their impacts on our public lands and prevent future exploitation.  It is far past time that we take a powerful stance against this criminal element and all that derives from this illegal activity in order to make our forests safe again for the public to enjoy.  Please let us know how you plan to address these issues moving forward.

As always, we ask that this request be handled in strict accordance with existing rules, regulations and ethical guidelines. We look forward to your timely response.


Congressman Doug LaMalfa is a lifelong farmer representing California’s First Congressional District, including Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama Counties.


Signed copies of the letter to Secretary Zinke and the letter to Secretary Perdue are attached.