What makes Humboldt so special? Even more important than the scenic beauty that tourists and residents both appreciate, is the fact that Humboldt County California possesses large tracts of native habitat. Despite the legacy of logging, the low level of development makes Humboldt’s habitat a valuable home for many species.
Few realize that we are in the midst if the largest extinction event since the Cretaceous Extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. It is estimated that three species go extinct every hour, up to 150 every day, culminating with between 18,000 to 55,000 extinctions each year. This is more than a thousand times higher than the normal, or background extinction rate. The Living Planet Report of 2014 found that the world lost 52% of its biodiversity since 1970. What is the leading cause of extinctions? Habitat destruction. Habitat fragmentation and degradation are leading causes of habitat loss. Unfortunately, that is what is happening to Humboldt’s habitat, due to the expansion of Humboldt’s marijuana industry.
HUMBOLDT AND MARIJUANA Humboldt County became a center of marijuana production, because of the War on Drugs. Humboldt’s remote and rugged landscape, and sparse law enforcement made it possible for most growers to avoid prosecution. Growers hid small gardens under the forest canopy, on steep hillsides. With the passage of Prop 215, growers began to expand. Despite the fact that prop 215 only gave protection for patients or their caregivers in growing marijuana, many Humboldt growers used it as a shield for their black market grows. It was easy to get a recommendation, and law enforcement tended to allow grows much larger than any patient could consume, if the grower had a doctor’s recommendation.
The largest growth in Humboldt’s marijuana industry came with the “green rush” which became alarmingly noticeable five or six years ago on google earth. Rather than changing their career or changing locations, many local growers expanded, and newcomers from around the country and around the world flocked here to grow for their markets back home. Marijuana clear-cuts and new roads grew exponentially, fragmenting and degrading the landscape.
Many think that promoting “best practices” will solve Humboldt’s environmental degradation, but when you start by chopping down swaths of forest, or bulldozing a meadow, you are not using best practices. Meanwhile, the County, State and proposition writers have overlooked this vital issue. Marijuana clear-cuts and new roads damage the landscape, whether or not they have been given a license or permit. There is no mitigation for fragmentation. Humboldt’s habitat is the wrong place for a major agricultural industry. It’s time to move the industry out of habitat.