Rangers recently discovered an illegal cannabis grow site in a remote section of Death Valley National Park, raising concerns that sensitive wildlife habitat could be damaged or destroyed, officials said Saturday.
The 40-acre site was spotted in Jail Canyon on the western side of the Panamint Mountains near the Mojave Desert. The National Park Service did not say exactly when it was discovered, but the canyon is temporarily closed until park rangers can evaluate the situation.
“We are deeply saddened and concerned with the damage that these illegal activities cause,” said Barbara Durham, a 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.”
Illegal grow sites have previously been found in the park over hundreds of acres, and hikers have been threatened by growers in the past, according to park officials. These illegal sites carry a risk of harming natural and cultural resources through the use of pesticides, land clearing, poaching and waterway modifications.
“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.”