Our parks are crumbling as havens

Published 1:20 am Sunday, October 12, 2008

A lot of friends and family members love to camp or hike through national forests and parks in this country, especially in the southeast.

The parks are beautiful and comfortable for the most part — at least that’s what many of us thought until The Associated Press released a story Saturday about how our parks are going to pot.

No. Literally going to pot.

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It seems that Mexican marijuana-growing cartels have sullied many of the wilderness areas so many of us cherish by using toxic chemicals to get lucrative harvests from those rocky mountainsides.

Now, this pollution isn’t limited to the West, but the story pointed to pollution on federal lands in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Still, it’s the gorgeous Sequoia National Forest in California that’s hardest hit.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has reported 700 “pot farms” just in California in 2007-2008.

Here’s what’s happening, according to the AP and various other sources: A lot of weed killers and bug sprays that have been banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — stuff you and I would have to pay heavy fines for if we used — have shown up in these parks because the cartels have smuggled them across the border.

The pot growers have used plant growth hormones to enhance the fertility of their illegal crop for more money, and those so-called farmers have dumped the hormones into streams and rivers in the areas. Plus, the cartel has brought in PVC pipe to divert water from streams to the patches.

Because animals are pests, even to the pot plants, the cartels sprinkle rat poison all over the landscape to keep animals away from young, tender plants.

A member of the U.S. Forestry service said right now only volunteers have cleaned up the parks in these areas. This is something you won’t hear about during the presidential debates. It likely won’t make the evening news or even show up on C-Span. We don’t have many of these parks left because of our national indifference to the environment.

You don’t have to be a so-called tree hugger to appreciate that you don’t want your children or grandchildren splashing in a creek polluted with growth hormones or dangerous weed killers. And you don’t want to go fly-fishing in a creek to find a dead deer upstream.

This needs to become an issue — at least enough that we clean up the parks, instead of relying just on volunteers.

Leesha Faulkner is executive editor of the Selma Times-Journal and may be reached at 410-1730 or leesha.faulkner@selmatimesjournal.com.