Death Valley National Park rangers recently discovered a large, illegal marijuana grow site. The 40 acre site was spotted in Jail Canyon, a rarely-visited canyon on the western side of the Panamint Mountains. Jail Canyon is temporarily closed for public safety reasons until park rangers can fully evaluate the area.
In the past, growers have threatened hikers who have stumbled upon their illegal operations.
Marijuana grow sites significantly damage and destroy the park’s natural and cultural resources by introducing pesticides, land clearing, poaching and waterway modifications. Although the climate of Death Valley may appear inhospitable to marijuana cultivation, over the past decade, hundreds of acres of marijuana have been illegally cultivated in the park.
“We are deeply saddened and concerned with the damage that these illegal activities cause,” said Barbara Durham, Traditional Historic Preservation Officer for the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. “The natural and cultural resources in these areas are irreplaceable and invaluable, damaging them for profit shows incredible disrespect to our homeland.”
“Preserving natural and cultural resources while providing an opportunity for the public to enjoy amazing places is at the core of our mission,” said Rob Wissinger, Chief Ranger at Death Valley National Park. “Seeing irreparable damage to a fragile ecosystem rich with rare natural and cultural resources is devastating.”
Visitors to Death Valley’s most well-traveled areas are not at risk of finding a marijuana grow site. However, hikers in remote areas near water sources should remain alert, turn around and leave if they notice signs of suspicious activity, such as excessive amounts of trash, hillside terracing, or plastic irrigation tubing. Once safe, they should notify rangers at a visitor center or call the National Park Service tip line at 888-653-0009.
California legalized marijuana in 2016, but the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
(Photo Courtesy of National Park Service)