Armed pot growers invade public lands

When we say “growing pot in national parks,” what do you think of? Aging hippie, beat-up VW minibus, little dope field a few yards up the hill from the camp site? Yeah, those were good times … but where were we? Oh yes. Well, times change: California’s Sequoia National Park has become prime cropland for pot growers, and we’re not talking blissed-out deadheads. As the profitability of marijuana has outpaced that of methamphetamines, gun-toting growers — many with links to Mexican drug cartels — have taken to colonizing isolated wilderness areas in Sequoia, causing massive ecological damage in the process. Some 180 acres of wilderness are disturbed for every five acres of marijuana grown, as growers set up huge camps, cut terraces into steep slopes, divert water from creeks and rivers, poach wildlife, and dump tons of trash. Local rangers and law enforcement say federal authorities — and green groups — aren’t taking the problem seriously.