The drug trafficking business is well organized, but what's left behind... is a mess. For the first time, it's all getting cleaned up, (so to speak.) We hiked to the site of a marijuana grow where crews are hard at work.
It's the wee hours of the morning. Jackson County Sheriff's and Search and Rescue teams pack up, heading deep into the mountains south of Ashland. Their purpose, to clean up garbage left at a marijuana grow site busted in 2010. "All the sites we've come to in the past, everything been left in the woods," says Lt. Matt Thomson with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.
For three years garbage strewn over miles has sat here. "The worst are the newer grows, where some of these guys are defecating in the water sources so then we're cleaning up the pipe. Sometimes you can smell it," comments one of the workers from Search and Rescue.
The mess is posing risks for animals and the environment. "There were some cattle that were grazing up stream who got into last week," says Thomson.
So why couldn't crews clean before, the problem... lack of funding, but this year that's all changing. The U.S. Forest Service and Sheriff's Department received a $125 thousand dollar grant specifically for restoring old grow sites.
Now crews are picking up miles of hose, propane, and personal items... backpacking it out of dense, steep terrain. "That's going to start the natural re-growth of everything and fix erosion problems," says Thomson. This time, he says the growth will be what nature intended to be here.