Mexican drug cartels are increasing marijuana cultivation in national parks and on other public land, endangering visitors and damaging the environment, law enforcement and National Park Service officials told USA Today. John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, says that up to 80 percent of marijuana grown outdoors is on state or federal land. The Drug Enforcement Administration says there were more than 4.8 million marijuana-plant seizures at outdoor sites in 2006. Tighter border controls make it harder to smuggle marijuana into the U.S., so more Mexican drug networks are growing crops here, Walters says.
The number of marijuana plants confiscated on public land in California grew from 40 percent to 75 percent of total seizures between 2001-2007, says the state’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting task force. Hunting and cleaning up after pot growers diverts resources at a time when parks face chronic funding shortfalls, says Laine Hendricks of the National Parks Conservation Association.