The calls have begun to trickle in.
And I’m not talking about my phone call to a narcotics sergeant on Wednesday to talk about the beat. However, while chatting about spring, he mentioned that the nice weather has put landowners across Sonoma County on alert. A suspicious vehicle here. A discarded item there. They’re calling in to report clues that land poachers are sneaking around the deep woods and preparing to plant marijuana.
“Every time I get a call I tell them they have to be diligent about keeping track of their property and look for any changes, the telltale signs,” said Sgt. Steve Gossett, who runs the Sonoma County sheriff’s narcotics unit.
Robert Townsend with California Watch (a Berkeley-based nonprofit that produces investigative reporting projects) called it “a little-spoken-of war” between land poachers and landowners.
Maybe my perspective is skewed because it’s my job to pay attention to this stuff, however it seems to be a much-talked about problem on the North Coast.
Townsend quoted a retired Santa Rosa teacher who last August took me on a day-long trek into the woods of her family’s rugged property. After hours of bushwhacking up and across steep hillsides, a few false alarms (i.e. old irrigation hoses from previous seasons), I had nearly begun to think she was imagining the whole thing. But then we found the camp. Fresh onions, several dozen eggs, sausages, sleeping bags, toothbrushes. Pot plants.
And that’s what other properties have told me. You think you’re just imagining things. That truck parked at the side of the road. A backpack tucked behind a rock. Wrappers left behind.
Have you noticed the signs on your property or while hiking on public land? Do you know anyone who spends the summer holed up in the woods to tend o marijuana plants?