Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Following years of warnings from state Fish and Wildlife and forestry officials, the federal government this week called for further study of the effects of marijuana cultivation on threatened salmon populations in pot-rich areas like Northern California’s Emerald Triangle, which includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties.
The recommendations by federal fisheries officials were included in a document released Tuesday that lays out plans to rehabilitate 40 populations of threatened coho salmon in a wide geographic range that includes about 10,000 miles of streams and 13 million acres in southern Oregon and Northern California, including parts of Mendocino and Lake counties.
“We identified marijuana as one of the activities that contributes to the problems” fish face in some regions, said Julie Weeder, the recovery coordinator for the Northern California division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries division, commonly called the National Marine Fisheries Service, which published the report.
The comprehensive, estimated 2,200-page report proposes some 3,000 recovery actions. There are about a half-dozen “highest priority recovery actions” for each of the 40 coho populations addressed in the plan. The top of the action list for rehabilitating fish populations in the Eel River system in Lake, Mendocino and Humboldt counties includes studying the effects of the marijuana industry on the fish and taking unspecified action to minimize its effects if necessary. There are no specific mitigation plans listed for pot because its effects need further study, Weeder said.
Some marijuana mitigations are already included in other recommended actions, such as stopping unauthorized water diversions from streams and rivers, Weeder said. Many illegal pot growers buy, rent or trespass and illegally divert water from streams that feed the threatened watersheds.