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Fourteen Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) volunteers, with support from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Arcata field office staff and the Mendocino County sheriff's office, cleaned up trash and other trespass marijuana grow materials from the headwaters of Big Dann Creek on Friday, Feb. 21. Big Dann Creek is an important source of clean water for the South Fork Eel River and is on BLM land just outside of the Red Mountain Wilderness. This project is just the first part of a larger ERRP effort to clean up all such grows in Eel River wilderness areas over the next five years.

The cleanup included two adjacent grow sites that had an extensive water diversion system, with six water diversions on four branches of the creek. A 750-gallon pool created by damming the creek with black plastic liner for the purpose of diversion was removed and unimpeded stream flow returned to the channel. One-and-a-half cubic yards of nutrient rich potting soil and approximately two miles of black poly-pipe were transferred to vehicles at the trailhead and taken for recycling. Six cubic yards of trash, including rodenticide, were removed.

ERRP volunteers from Mendocino and Humboldt county communities were briefed on potential hazards of the hike and cleanup. Several team members collected the materials, while others focused on shuttling loads of trash back to the trucks. Another group dispersed to the various stream branches through heavy brush to find and retrieve the lengths of pipe and hose, and take out the diversion dam.


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ERRP volunteer Dotti Russell from Phillipsville said, “The success of our one-day efforts was amazing, especially considering the terrain and the amount of garbage and pipe that we needed to get out of the woods.”

ERRP volunteer coordinator Pat Higgins said, “The community wants to make public lands within the Eel River watershed safe for hiking and recreating and fully functional as sources of clean water and refuge areas for aquatic and terrestrial animals. Because industrial marijuana grows compromise these uses, we will be working with local communities and BLM and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to clean up all such grows in Eel River basin wilderness areas.” The strategy is not to interfere with active growing sites, but rather to take growing infrastructure out during winter when sites are dormant, which discourages continued growing at the same site.

The cleanup effort was preceded by several months of planning and coordination with BLM staff and the Mendocino County sheriff's office. ERRP volunteer support, field reconnaissance, and agency coordination for this project were funded through a Rose Foundation California Wildlands grant and with help from the Mendocino Public Safety Foundation. More grow sites have been identified and BLM has requested that ERRP continue to supply more volunteers to clean up additional sites in April. Call 707-223-7200 if you want to volunteer.

ERRP is a grassroots group operating under the fiscal umbrella of the Trees Foundation in Garberville, which works with the community to identify problems and obtains resources to solve them. While ERRP is trying to raise additional funds from foundations for volunteer coordination and support, contributions from private donations for wilderness cleanup can be sent to Trees Foundation, P.O. Box 2202, Redway, CA 95560 with a note that it is for ERRP Wilderness on checks.

See www.eelriverrecovery.org for more information about this effort and to donate on-line.

PHOTO COURTESY OF VEDA HOYES

1. Black plastic pipe and other debris removed from the headwaters of Big Dann Creek on BLM lands and about to be transported for recycling, February 21, 2014.

2. Red Mountain Wilderness in the distance looking west off Bells Springs Road.