Letter to EcoNews: County and State Officials are Trading Our Fish and Owls for Pot Farms


Local officials in county government and those in relevant state agencies are trading away our fish, owls, and other important elements of our natural ecosystems for the benefit of large out-of-control cannabis grows. The county planning department and its rubber-stamp planning commission are ignoring the great harm they are causing by approving grow permits one after another, most with fossil fuel powered generators and stream diversions, with no accounting for the number or size of these farms in any particular watershed. A recent example, where the planning department didn’t even list the correct watershed, is a huge approved proposal by Green Grow LLC, which was reported as near Briceland, in the Eel River drainage, when it actually is near Ettersburg in the Mattole watershed. This grow has 47 green houses, five generators, and three water diversions! Apparently, our officials have no concern over the size or the number of grows occurring in a particular area, let alone their cumulative impacts.  Planning department officials continue to push these bad growing plans through the poorly informed planning commission. This broken process not only violates the public trust, but also violates state law (California Environment Quality Act or CEQA). The Board of Supervisors needs to act immediately to stop this abuse of the permitting process.  

I used to hear owls every night at my home near Ettersburg, now I never hear them. Even the quietest generator to the human ear is too loud for owls to hunt because they use the faint sounds of rodent (and other small creature) movements to locate their prey. If you can’t eat you have to leave. If you don’t think owls are important, just ask anyone who is overrun with mice!  On top of this noise is the fact that generators use fossil fuels with their carbon footprint. If you need electricity and can’t go solar you are out of step with the times and are just too greedy. Furthermore, these officials are also approving multiple water diversions!  My God, what does it take to recognize the impacts this has on the native fishes in a time of drought? The Creator gave the first water rights to the fish not the humans. It is high time humanity recognized this and acted appropriately. Both the state water and wildlife agencies need to step up and do their jobs if the county planning department and the supervisors won’t. The fish, and the fishing communities, should all have priority over cannabis grows. It is time to recognize we are in a drought that will not likely to go away any time soon. It is imperative that both the county and state agencies do the right thing and recognize that carry capacity is real, resources are finite, and we need to rein in the cannabis gold rush to a sustainable level within local ecosystems. Of the many local environmental organizations, only the Northcoast Environmental Center has taken a stand on this issue. It is time for the others to speak out. Also, we need to find representatives who recognize the reality of climate change and will agree to stop the approval of these out of control permits.  Furthermore, those supervisors who are themselves, or have family, involved in the cannabis industry should do the right thing and recuse themselves from taking a stand on this issue.


Hart Welsh