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Forest officials gauge damage from pot grows

Officials with the National Forest Service are still working to assess the environmental damage from large scale marijuana growing operations.

At least ten sites have been found in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Northeastern Wisconsin, each one measuring roughly an acre.

Considering the entire size of the Forest is 1.5 million acres, those plots might not sound like a lot. But Suzanne Flory -- a spokesperson for the NFS --- says each pot field had been clear cut, and the growers weren't exactly organic gardeners.

"The damage can range everywhere from fertilizer ... pesticides getting into the water system which can have long term implications," says Flory. "It also leaves a scar on the landscape which hopefully will come back naturally over time. It's just an interruption of natural processes on the forest landscape."

Flory led reporters to an isolated growing area, at least a mile off the nearest road. The camp was strewn with garbage and fertilizer bags. Three holes were also dug to tap into the water table.

That concerns ranger Jeff Seefeldt, who says hydrologists will come in to study what -- if any -- chemicals were mixed in the holes.

"Personally, it upsets me someone would do this to the publics' land," says Seefeldt. "This land belongs to everybody and to come and leave a scar on it, leave garbage, doesn't make me very happy."

Normally the area where the marijuana was grown would be a cedar swamp and spruce forest. Some of the felled trees were upwards of 80 years old. But Seefeldt says the area will bounce back within five years, making it once again habitable for deer and black bears.