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Marijuana farms damaging public lands

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Marijuana Farms in Utah's public lands causing environmental issues. Experts told ABC 4 News these grows in our public lands are raping the environment.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Marijuana Farms in Utah's public lands causing environmental issues.  Experts told ABC 4 News these grows in our public lands are raping the environment. They are stealing water and more. We took a look at how bad the problem really is.

The beautiful Utah outdoors is enjoyed by thousands including Mikel Trapp. He spends a lot of time hiking.

"My family, we hike a lot, obviously here in the intermountain west," said Trapp.

But taking hold in Utah's wilderness are illegal pot farms ran by Mexican cartels.

"Last year alone 61 national forests were affected by outdoor marijuana grows," said Frank Smith with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

It's a dangerous situation for you and a devastating situation for the environment.

"They're stealing the land, they're stealing the water and then they are growing the plants with total disregard for the environment," said Smith.

The Cartels are using pipes to pump the water from public streams. They're stripping the land and stacking brush causing fire hazards. They're living in makeshift campgrounds and leaving trash. Frank smith with the DEA has seen it all, including the use of harmful chemicals.

"They use herbicide, pesticides, fertilizers and all that trickles into our water table and then they divert the water, either from wells or ranches or streams which cause all kinds of ecological problem down stream," said Smith.

It's not only the environment affected. The farms hurt your pocket book as a tax payer.
"It's an environmental nightmare what's going on" - Frank Smith, DEA
"The average acre of marijuana that's grown affects 10 acres around it and it costs about $20,000 per acre to bring it back to pristine forest," said Smith.

With hundreds of acres being used by traffickers, that's millions of your taxpayer dollars wasted.

"It's an environmental nightmare what's going on," said Smith.

It's a nightmare Mikel hopes can be changed into the dream he knows as the Utah outdoors.

"Soil erosion, and all the problems it causes with the environment, trash," said Mikel.

The good news is the numbers of marijuana farms is down, which causes less damage to our environment overall.

Watch Tuesday night on ABC 4 News at 10 for the conclusion of our series on Utah's cash crop. We take an in-depth look at the dangers if you accidentally found one of these farms. What should you do? And we'll hear from a hunter who came face to face with Mexican Cartel member's right here in Utah.

View Part 1 of Cash Crops - ABC 4 investigates: Utah's secret 'cash crop' marijuana farms
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