More than a ton of trash has been removed from the site of an illegal pot farm in the Fossil Springs Wilderness Area. As Arizona Public Radio's Gillian Ferris reports, it took almost 10 years for funding to come through for the clean-up.
The farm was discovered in 2005. At the time, the Forest Service removed some 20,000 marijuana plants and gathered nearly 1.5 tons of trash from the operation, including miles of irrigation tubing. The garbage piles sat for almost a decade until funding and resources were made available earlier this month to haul them away.
Generally, motors of any kind - including vehicles and chainsaws - can't be used in designated "Wilderness" areas. However, after extensive assessment, the Forest Service determined that the least impactful way to take the trash out was by helicopter. The garbage was consolidated on the ground and flown out in 3 sling loads.
Forest officials say remote Wilderness areas - particularly in western states - have become desirable locations for illegal pot farms because they're often very hard to get to or even spot. Research conducted at several schools within the University of California system show that these types of farms can cause extensive damage to surrounding eco-systems, including erosion, contamination of water supplies from human waste and poisoning of animals and plants from chemical dumping.