Murder, Pollution, Illegal Drugs & Our Public Lands

The murder this past weekend of Fort Bragg, California City Councilman Jere Melo puts an all-too-human face on a long-festering environmental crisis.

Melo was shot and killed in a remote area in Mendocino County by a squatter who was reportedly growing marijuana on forest lands there. Councilman Melo, whose day job was to manage 150,000 acres of Mendocino forest lands owned by an investment firm, was shot to death as he investigated reports of illegal pot growing on the property.

By all accounts, Melo was one of the good guys. He’d served on the Fort Bragg City Council for the past 15 years. At the time of his death, he was working on a proposal to convert a closed Georgia Pacific lumber mill into a biomass plant that would convert timber waste into electricity.

Melo’s untimely death brings into sharp focus a major, ongoing environmental and public safety crisis: criminals commandeering both public and private lands to cultivate marijuana groves, operate meth labs and pursue similar drug crimes. In the process, they threaten unsuspecting recreationists and other members of the public who stumble upon their remote drug sites, and trash pristine lands with toxic chemicals, illegal pesticides, human waste, etc.

The New York Times recently reported that looming budget cuts by the State of California threaten to end state law enforcement’s longstanding Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP). The CAMP initiative, led by California’s Attorney General with assistance from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement officials,  deploys drug agents to remote areas of California in an attempt to destroy the state’s massive, illegal marijuana crop. The Times reports that CAMP agents have eradicated more than 20 million plants during the program’s 28-year history, including 4.3 million in 2010 alone.

The use and cultivation of marijuana is a controversial subject, one that divides Californians and Americans generally. But there’s far more unanimity of public opinion when it comes to prosecuting and disrupting the efforts of those who violate others’ private property rights or trespass upon and despoil the public lands in order to pursue their illegal drug activities. The tragic death of Jere Melo underscores the point that, along with the environmental degradation and privatization of our wilderness areas, such illegal drug operations can extract a very human cost.

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Reader Comments

5 Replies to “Murder, Pollution, Illegal Drugs & Our Public Lands”

  1. Glad you mentioned this story Richard. Hopefully a productive discussion ensues.

    Maybe it’s confirmation bias, but every time I read something like this, legalization–and elimination or at least reduction of the black market–seems like the obvious solution.

  2. Its very obvious you are only trying to propagate the Anti-Marijuana sentiment by this article as you fail to mention the fact the Suspect Bassler is wanted in at least one other homicide, the fact there was NO MARIJUANA GARDEN, and the fact the suspects father tried unsuccessfully for years to get help for his son going as far as to write letters to the local judges begging for help, but was simply ignored. The fact remains Bassler is a homicidal mental Ill person, according to the Sheriff there was no marijuana and he was only tending a “personal sized” opium patch….. Here is the link in case you wanted to check the facts and write a story based on reality, rather than paranoid dreams…….. Alleged opium grower sought in California councilman killing http://wkzo.com/news/articles/2011/aug/30/alleged-opium-grower-sought-in-california-councilman-killing/

  3. If you really cared about the environment and had any background on the victim you would realize Melo worked for years as one of the “Head Foresters” for the very company responsible for clear-cutting most of Mendocino Counties Virgin Redwood, Georgia Pacific, obviously the few pot patches grown in this neck of the woods can;t even begin to compare with the moons-caped landscapes Georgia Pacific Co left Mendocino County with, i SAY “LEFT MENDOCINO COUNTY WITH” because after Georgia Pacific GP was finished clear-cutting Mendocino and exploiting the Redwood Wealth, they simply auctioned off their equipment and sold the clear-cut properties and the “Prime Real Estate” Mill to the Highest bidder…..GP also cut it’s workers pensions, THUS Leaving nothing but shattered moons-caped forests of stumps and unemployed and retired workers to fend for themselves, This http://lh3.ggpht.com/_6LWjP0sZ22w/SX259UTEbBI/AAAAAAAADHk/5fvhdh9kN6A/clear_cut_forest5.jpg compared to this http://mendonews.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/marijuana-garden1.jpg You tell me which is more environmentally sound ……. lol

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Richard Frank

Richard Frank is Professor of Environmental Practice and Director of the U. C. Davis School of Law’s California Environmental Law & Policy Center. From 2006-2010, …

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