Four members of the National Guard’s elite 95th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team (WMD-CST) are stopped in a clearing deep in northern California’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest. They’re huddled together, decked in camouflage protective gear, chemically-resistant Butyl Rubber gloves and full-face respirators.
“What they have in that vial could kill all of us,” Gabriel nods at the cholinesterase inhibitor, which attacks both the peripheral and central nervous systems. “A quarter of a teaspoon at 38 percent [concentration] is enough to kill a 600-pound lion. What they’re working with right now is about a tablespoon.” Nine one-liter bottles were discovered at Plummer; that’s a total of over 608 tablespoons of the hazardous nerve agent—which is sadly unsurprising given that the use of Carbofuran and similarly toxic pesticides has increased dramatically over the past several years. In 2012, the IERC ecologists detected Carbofuran at 15 percent of the trespass grows they visited. In 2018, that number was closer to 85 percent.