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California Scientist Says Marijuana Farms Are Hurting Endangered Species

A California Department of Fish and Wildlife scientist found marijuana cultivation sites in Northern California are making it tough for some endangered species to thrive.

Photo credit: Dank Depot / Flickr

Marijuana sits on a jar in front of a prescription notepad in this undated photo.

Marijuana growing operations are creating problems for some endangered species because the farms are using a lot of water and that's led to dried up streams.

Environmental scientist Scott Bauer first noticed Northern California streams were drying up when he was working to save endangered salmon.

Bauer looked at stream flow data in four watersheds and then researched the number and size of marijuana cultivation farms. He found the grow operations dried up streams in three of the four watersheds.

"People that are downstream from these grows, they're losing their ability to have water for their households and so everyone from humans to animals are being affected," Bauer said.

Marijuana cultivation is allowed in California with proper permits, but Bauer said the industry's demand for water is causing irreparable harm to sensitive habitats in rural areas.

Water diversion is especially damaging for endangered salmon.

"When you take all the water out of a stream, essentially all those young salmon that have to live in a stream for roughly a year, at least a year, they're gone," Bauer said.

There are tens of thousands of compassionate use growing operations in Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties. Bauer said that entire industry needs more regulation so sensitive habitats can be protected.

The study is available online here.

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Photo of Erik Anderson

Erik Anderson
Environment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.

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