California State Parks Cannabis Watershed Protection Program Cleans Up Illegal Grow Sites Across the State

California State Parks removed about six thousand pounds of trash from four state parks as part of a cleanup operation by its Cannabis Watershed Protection Program (CWPP). The operations were aimed at removing all waste left over from illegal cannabis cultivation.

The operation was carried out at the following locations this past spring: 

  • Cuyamaca Rancho State Park (SP): Approximately 1,800 pounds of waste were removed from the Sweetwater Watershed.
  • Henry W. Coe SP: Approximately 2,200 pounds of waste were removed from the Coyote Creek and Pajaro Watersheds.
  • Malibu Creek SP: Approximately 1,000 pounds of waste were removed from the Malibu Creek Watershed.
  • Topanga SP: Approximately 1,000 pounds of waste were removed from the Topanga Creek Watershed.
Photos of crews cleaning up at California State Parks

CWPP staff load waste into super sacks as a helicopter lifts them away from a former grow site at Henry W. Coe State Park. Photos from California State Parks.

Due to the remote locations and rugged terrain surrounding these sites, much of the waste was airlifted out of the parks. Illegal cannabis cultivation in state parks results in environmental damage due to the use of toxic chemicals (including banned herbicides and pesticides), introduction of invasive species, and destruction of native plants and wildlife, among other damage.

CWPP has documented more than 400 illicit grow sites on State Park property. Many sites are located in remote areas and require considerable time and resources to remediate or clean up. To date, the program has fully remediated 84 former cannabis grow sites, removing 29,000 pounds of waste, 32,500 cannabis plants, 360 pounds of fertilizer, 200 hazardous waste items, and over six miles of irrigation tubing.

CWPP was established in 2019 with the mission of preventing and alleviating environmental damage from illegal cannabis cultivation and supporting stewardship and operation in a manner that discourages and prevents cannabis cultivation on State Park lands.

MAIN PHOTO: A helicopter lifts super sacks filled with waste away from a former grow site at Henry W. Coe State Park. Photo from California State Parks.


The California Department of Parks and Recreation, popularly known as State Parks, and the programs supported by its Office of Historic Preservation and divisions of Boating and Waterways and Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation provides for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation. Learn more at

The Cannabis Watershed Protection Program was established in 2019 with support from the Cannabis Tax Fund, to prevent and alleviate environmental damage from cannabis cultivation. Since 2019, with Cannabis Tax Fund support, State Parks has been able to dedicate staff to proactively identify illegal cannabis cultivation on State Parks properties, clean up trash and hazardous materials from the sites, and begin to restore resources damaged in watersheds affected by cannabis cultivation. The CWPP team is a multi-disciplinary collaboration including law enforcement, natural and cultural resource managers, road and trail maintenance crews, and other technical experts, working together on common goals. To learn more, visit the Cannabis Watershed Protection Program’s webpage.