It took nearly a decade to come up with the funds, but it took just a couple of days for Forest Service crews to remove one and a half tons of garbage from a remote location in the heart of Arizona referred to as the Fossil Springs Wilderness.
Populated by evergreen trees and crystal clear watering holes, and featuring breathtaking vistas at nearly every turn, the area does see its share of hikers. But the “PACK IN, PACK OUT” mentality of most outdoor enthusiasts keeps the area clean, and the habitat as natural as possible.
How then could 1.5 tons of trash sit around out there for nine years? And who the hell left it there?
In 2005, in the rugged terrain known as Sand Rock Canyon, authorities from the Forest Service and law enforcement discovered and took down a major outdoor marijuana growing operation consisting of over 20,000 plants.
They took what they could, and what they needed as evidence at the time, but left the majority of the captured supplies, hoping to return soon thereafter to clean up the site.
As we all know, the economy certainly didn’t start getting any better after 2005, and one year spilled into the next until just this year the necessary funds were allocated to restore the site to its natural state.
The bulk of the trash consisted of miles and miles of non-biodegradable irrigation tubing that previous hiking expeditions had been amassing at the one main bust site. The smallest site discovered contained over 150 pounds of trash alone.
The Forest Service soon became concerned that the environmental impact of their crews’ boots on the ground, and the traffic of pack animals necessary to cart the trash out over land would possibly do more harm than good.
So a helicopter was commissioned, and two weeks ago, on May 7th, a crew made up of 19 Forest Service members made their way out to the old grow sites, some seven miles outside of Strawberry, Arizona, and bundled up the sling loads for the chopper to haul out the following day.
A few chopper sorties later on the 8th of May, and the region was once again restored to its natural prominence.
We often see the prohibitionist anti-cannabis crowd point to incidents like this, as some sort of indictment on the plant itself. It’s not clear what sort of herb might be sprouting in the Arizona high desert, but it’s likely that if cultivation laws were more realistic in the state, folks would rather keep their crops closer to home.