Cannabis Watershed Protection Program
What is State Parks’ Cannabis Watershed Protection Program?
Like other public lands in California, some rugged or remote areas of State Parks have been used for illegal cannabis cultivation. Given the challenges of accessing hidden cultivation sites, occupation of the grow sites can occur over numerous years, and results in tremendous environmental damage due to toxic chemicals (including banned herbicides and pesticides), introduction of invasive species, and destruction of native plants and wildlife, among other damage. State Parks’ Cannabis Watershed Protection Program (CWPP) was established in 2019 with support from the Cannabis Tax Fund, to prevent and alleviate environmental damage from cannabis cultivation.
What is State Parks doing to remediate and restore environmental damage associated with cannabis cultivation?
Since 2019, with Cannabis Tax Fund support, State Parks has been able to dedicate staff to proactively identify illegal cannabis cultivation on State Parks properties, clean up trash and hazardous materials from the sites, and begin to restore resources damaged in watersheds affected by cannabis cultivation. The CWPP team is a multi-disciplinary collaboration including law enforcement, natural and cultural resource managers, road and trail maintenance crews, and other technical experts, working together on common goals.
- Natural and cultural resource staff have been hired and dedicated to scoping and implementing restoration projects in watersheds affected by cannabis cultivation.
- State Parks now has a Special Enforcement Team (SET) of State Park Peace Officers, trained in tactics required to safely respond to the uniquely hazardous situations arising from illegal cannabis cultivation.
- Dedicated road and trail crews have been hired to increase and improve access for law enforcement patrols and for grow site remediation and restoration -- which will also improve safe public access. Staff are already leading California Conservation Corps and other youth corps teams to improve safety and sustainability of roads and trails in Districts impacted by cannabis grows.
- The team has already conducted an assessment of cannabis grows and risk factors on State Park units, resulting in a predictive geospatial model that will assist the Department (and potentially other land manager partners) to refine the understanding of likely factors that put certain areas more at risk for illegal cannabis activity. State Parks will apply this understanding to focus support for operations and stewardship that discourage and prevent this damage.
CWPP Mission: to restore watersheds affected by cannabis cultivation, and to steward and operate State Parks in a manner that prevents negative impacts of cannabis, thereby providing enduring resource protection and safe public access.
CWPP Vision: cannabis-impacted watersheds are operated and stewarded to:
- restore and adaptively manage ecosystem functions;
- protect and interpret natural and cultural resources;
- ensure improved public access is safe and enriching; and
- discourage, quickly identify, remediate, and prevent incompatible activities.
What is the Cannabis Tax Fund?
In 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64, the “Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act.” This Act taxes sales of cannabis products, with revenues going to the California Cannabis Tax Fund. Revenues in the Fund are first allocated to costs of administering and enforcing the Act, drug research and treatment, and enforcement. Of remaining revenue, a portion goes to State Parks and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, to prevent and alleviate environmental damage from cannabis cultivation. For details, see the text of Proposition 64.