SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California authorities have launched a major raid to seize marijuana grown on and around a Northern California Indian reservation, joining with tribal authorities to combat illegal grow operations on native lands, authorities said on Tuesday.
Officials from over half a dozen federal, state and local agencies seized thousands of plants in the vicinity of the Yurok reservation on Monday, the first day of the operation, which was continuing into Tuesday.
“They’re going to be there for a while,” Lieutenant Steve Knight, spokesman of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office said of the dozens of agents participating in the operation in Humboldt County, a remote, mountainous part California that is all too familiar with illegal marijuana growers.
Officials complain that large-scale illegal marijuana crops near the Yurok reservation have harmed fish and other wildlife in the area, and have compounded with California’s severe drought to cause creeks and springs that feed the Klamath River to dry up. Some area residents have reported dry wells.
Yurok tribal police, who were taking part in the operation, could not immediately be reached for comment.
But tribal leaders have been requesting help from state and local agencies for years to combat the increasing number of illegal and heavily water-dependent marijuana grows on their land, according the Los Angeles Times.
“They’re stealing millions and millions of gallons of water and it’s impacting our ecosystem,” the paper quoted Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke as telling officials on Monday. “We can’t ... make it into our dance places, our women and children can’t leave the road to gather. We can’t hunt. We can’t live the life we’ve lived for thousands of years.”
Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh