CDFW News | Multi-Agency Watershed Protection Task Force Prepares for Summer

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), and State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) have lined up their cannabis enforcement teams for the 2022 watershed protection season.

The multi-agency task force is one of many coordinated efforts to combat illicit cannabis cultivation that illegally diverts water resources, harms sensitive habitats and can worsen drought conditions. Since 2018, CDFW and its partners have eradicated over 19.2 million illegal cannabis plants and destroyed 918,591 pounds of illegally processed cannabis statewide.

Tackling the illegal market across the entire supply chain requires coordination with various county, state and federal agencies, with the CDFW taking the lead in illegal outdoor grow operations in conjunction with the SWRCB and local law enforcement teams. In San Bernardino, for example, CDFW and their partners supported county enforcement on more than 200 search warrants for the years 2020 and 2021, which resulted in more than 150 arrests.

With advancements in technology creating a year-round illegal crop, CDFW has partnered with DCC and others to adapt to new trends in the illegal market. Over the past year, DCC law enforcement teams have seized over half a million pounds of illegal cannabis products, eradicated over 1.2 million illegal cannabis plants and conducted 188 arrests.

As authorized by the California Fish and Game Code, Section 12029, CDFW, DCC, and SWRCB have established a Watershed Enforcement Program to address the environmental impacts associated with cannabis cultivation.

Funded by voter-approved Proposition 64, the multi-agency task force focuses on priority watersheds and areas with sensitive habitat and/or threatened or endangered species. County, state, and federal partners also play an important role in ensuring the success of these goals through law enforcement and judicial process support. The environmental impacts of illegal water diversions and habitat destruction associated with the illegal cultivation of cannabis can adversely affect fish and wildlife, and their habitats, which are held in trust by the state for the benefit of the people.

California’s waterways, which are often victims of illegal water diversions, play an important role in ecosystem biodiversity and habitat value. Tributary streams are often essential in supplying clear, cold water to larger streams. Many sensitive aquatic species such as southern torrent salamanders, coastal tailed frogs, rainbow salmon and coho salmon depend on these tributaries in late summer to maintain water quality. water and temperatures necessary for their survival.

Disturbance of river systems also has significant physical, biological and chemical impacts that extend to the surrounding habitat, affecting not only fish and wildlife species dependent on the river itself, but also surrounding plants and fauna dependent on adjacent habitat. for food, reproduction and shelter.

With persistent drought conditions, protecting our water resources is paramount to the long-term survival of the plants, fish and wildlife that depend on them.

Across the state, CDFW, DCC, SWRCB, county partners, local code enforcement agencies and others are actively addressing illegal cannabis cultivation and unauthorized construction activities to protect these resources.

For more information on becoming a licensed commercial cannabis producer, visit the DCC website at, call (844) 61-CA-DCC (844-612-2322) or email email [email protected] To report suspected illegal cannabis activity, visit

To learn more about CDFW’s cannabis program, visit or email [email protected] To report environmental crimes, such as pollution, illegal water diversions, and poaching, please call the CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or text information to “TIP411” (847411).

To learn more about the State and Regional Water Board’s role in licensing cannabis cultivation, visit For compliance assistance with the Water Quality Division’s General Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance, email [email protected] or call (916) 341-5580. For compliance assistance with the Division of Water Rights Small Irrigation Use Registration, email [email protected] or call (916) 319- 9427.

Learn more about the details of fines, fees and administrative penalties for the illegal cultivation of cannabis.

Comments from the working group and partners

“The environmental impacts of illegal cannabis operations can last for decades and cause irreparable damage to our natural resources,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Enforcement Division. “Those who violate state laws and disregard the environmental impacts associated with illegal cultivation practices will be subject to enforcement action.”

“CDFW fully supports the regulated cannabis market and applauds those who take steps to comply with state laws,” said Sarah Paulson, Acting Cannabis Program Director. “With the second year of drought conditions, our native plants, fish and wildlife are feeling the pressure to feed, reproduce and survive. Protecting our natural resources is more important than ever.

“Our enforcement actions protect the environment and our communities from harm caused by illegal cultivation, and help provide a level playing field for legal operators in the cannabis market,” said Bill Jones, Deputy Director of the application to the Department of Cannabis Control. . “Our law enforcement team is proud to partner with state and local agencies in these efforts and to evolve our tactics to deal with the proliferation of illegal grow operations throughout the year.”

“Complying with state cannabis regulations is even more critical during drought conditions when water supplies are limited and water quality impacts are magnified,” said Yvonne West, Director from the State Water Resources Control Board’s enforcement office. “I am proud to work with so many people in the cannabis community who are dedicated to regulated and environmentally responsible cultivation. The State Water Board is committed to taking enforcement action against those who harm our precious resources. in water.

“My office is committed to enforcing criminal and civil laws to protect the environment and public safety,” said Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley. “The environmental damage caused by growing cannabis can be severe and long-lasting, including exposure to dangerous pesticides, degraded water quality, and injury to wildlife. Additionally, cultivators who violate the law should not have an unfair competitive advantage over legal cultivators who spend time and resources to stay in compliance. My office will continue to work with our local and state partners to ensure compliance with the law.

Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891

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