Cannabis Cultivation Site Restoration


Cannabis cultivation on private and public lands can result in serious environmental impacts when sites are not properly constructed or maintained. CDFW works with partner agencies and nonprofit organizations to implement the Cannabis Restoration Grant Program, which funds restoration projects to improve anadromous salmonid habitat in watersheds most heavily impacted by cannabis cultivation. Restoration refers to repairing an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed, often due to human activity. The goal of restoration projects is to bring an ecosystem back to an improved former or historical state. Restoration may take many forms including:

  • Creation of fish habitat,
  • Reintroduction of fish or wildlife,
  • Revegetation of native plants, and
  • Removal of invasive species.

Failed dam removal and channel restoration
Before and after restoration. A failed dam was removed, and the stream channel was restored.

link opens in new windowAssembly Bill 243 (Wood, Medical Marijuana) directs CDFW to restore watersheds impacted by cannabis cultivation in key areas of Coastal Northern California. Funds were set aside and the Cannabis Restoration Grant Program was created. In 2017, link opens in new windowCDFW awarded $1.3 million for restoration projects in watersheds impacted by cannabis cultivation within California’s Northern Coastal area.

Why is restoration important for cannabis cultivation sites?

Improper cannabis cultivation practices can severely affect California's fish and wildlife causing long-term impacts to important habitats, sensitive fish and wildlife populations, and human health. Environmental impacts from unlawful cannabis cultivation result from illegal water diversions, land conversion, habitat loss, illegal pesticide use, domestic waste, and poaching. The most impacted areas require remediation and restoration to protect the environment, fish and wildlife, and human health.

Learn more about the environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation.

Current funded restoration projects

In 2017, CDFW dedicated $1.3 million for projects restoring habitat most heavily impacted by cannabis cultivation:

  • Reclaiming our Public Lands and Watersheds from the Environmental Threats of Trespass Cannabis Cultivation ($1,068,415 to Integral Ecology Research Center);
  • Bull Creek Cannabis Recovery Project ($94,510 to Eel River Watershed Improvement Group);
  • SF Usal Creek Headwaters – Trash and Toxin Cleanup ($83,840 to Eel River Watershed Improvement Group); and
  • Whitethorn Grove Clean Up ($64,831 to Sanctuary Forest, Inc.).


Success story

In the summer of 2017, law enforcement from local, state, and federal agencies worked together to eradicate a large public land trespass cannabis cultivation site within the Six Rivers National Forest. This site is an important area for steelhead (Onchorhynchus mykiss) and chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), near critical habitat for the threatened northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), and provides habitat for the protected fisher (Pekania pennanti) and ringtail (Bassariscus astutus). With funding from the CDFW Cannabis Restoration Grant Program, CDFW staff, researchers from the Integral Ecology Research Center (IERC), and the U.S. Forest Service reclaimed and restored the site. Over 4,500 pounds of trash, including 1 mile of irrigation pipe, 2,050 pounds of fertilizer, and 91 pounds of pesticides were removed. Additionally, crews removed five water diversions and reservoirs, restoring 2.9 million gallons of water into the North Fork Eel watershed annually. Fifty-three people took two days to clean and restore the site. It took 16 helicopter loads to remove all of the trash, chemicals, and water diversion pipes. Restoration could not have occurred without the financial support and collaboration of a large multi-agency, interdisciplinary team, and funding through the CDFW Cannabis Restoration Grant Program. Restoration projects such as this are immensely important for the protection and survival of fish and wildlife in the area. link opens in new windowRead more (PDF).

Before remediation After restoration
Before and after site clean-up