California Spotted Owls Threatened by Illegal Cannabis Grows
A Federal Register notice published on Feb. 23 explains how illegal cannabis grows in California are harmful to spotted owls, which are native to California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) agency proposed the addition of two distinct population segments (DPS) of California Spotted Owl to be added to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (which turns 50 years old in 2023). This includes a Coastal-Southern California DPS, which FWS proposes to be listed as endangered, and the Sierra Nevada DPS, which FWS proposes to be listed as threatened. Among the FWS’s recommendations to help preserve the habitat of these particular spotted owls, FWS calls for action to reduce risk of wildfires (such as prescribed burns), target habitat management and restoration to help conserve the species, and improved cleanup after illegal cannabis grows. “Management or cleanup activities that remove toxicants and other chemicals from trespass cannabis cultivation sites in California spotted owl habitat,” FWS wrote. “Cleanup of these sites may involve activities that may cause localized, short-term disturbance to California spotted owls, as well as require limited removal of some habitat structures valuable to California spotted owls (e.g., hazard trees that may be a suitable nest site).” The FWS analyzed potential threats to these owls, such as parasites caused by climate change, extreme weather events, and more. In one scenario, the agency addressed the ongoing issue with high cannabis cultivator fees. “There will likely continue to be an increase in demand for marijuana, which may increase illegal grow sites using anticoagulant rodenticides in California if the costs of buying land and acquiring/maintaining permits to legalize a grow operation are too high,” the agency wrote. Furthermore, the agency notes that anticoagulant rodenticide has increased with the rise in illegal cannabis operations. “A comparison of marijuana cultivation site likelihood with northern…
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