Phoebe Parker-Shames; UC Berkeley; 130 Mulford Hall, Berkeley, CA, 94720-3114; (541) 500-7333;; Van Butsic, Justin Brashares
Many states in the Western US are now engaged in a large-scale experiment with the decriminalization of recreational cannabis, but the effects of this policy change on the environment are largely unknown. To examine the potential landscape impact of cannabis production on wildlife habitat and communities, we conducted land use mapping of the industry in Humboldt and Mendocino counties in Northern California, and Josephine County in Southern Oregon. After mapping more than one million cannabis plants, we found that the industry is spatially small and clustered, but rapidly increasing, especially in Oregon post-legalization. This creates localized point source disturbances for wildlife. In Oregon, production is concentrated along river corridors, with potential for runoff and terrestrial wildlife access. Production characterization differs between states, and may reflect local regulations, suggesting its impact may also be coupled with local regulation. Preliminary research connects land use development to wildlife disturbance using occupancy modeling and activity patterns of medium to large mammals and songbirds. These data indicate a diel activity shift rather than wholescale avoidance by most species of mammals. As a rapidly expanding industry, cannabis provides an opportunity to study interactions between policy, land use change, and wildlife across regulatory contexts and scales.
Ecology and Conservation of Mammals I   Student Paper