The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an agreement with the US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration Tuesday for funding in the amount of $56,000.

The money will be used to support law enforcement efforts to locate and eradicate illegal, large-scale cannabis cultivation sites, according to Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey.

The board’s decision came after some discussion with Lopey as to whether or not targeting grow sites was the best use for the funding within his department. As the sheriff’s department is currently significantly understaffed, Lopey was asked whether the funds would be better spent on overtime for the officers he has.

Lopey insisted that, in communicating with his officers, the feedback he received made it clear to him that going after growers who are cultivating cannabis illegally is the number one concern for the vast majority of his staff.

Lopey emphasized to the board the “significant damage” being done to the county’s forests as a result of illegal, large scale grows. That damage includes pesticides contaminating water and soil and erosion. Lopey said those factors and many others pose a serious threat to some of the county’s most abundant natural resources. He noted that losing healthy forest land translates to the county losing money.

District 5 Supervisor Ray Haupt, who presides over the district in which many of the illegal grows are located, told Lopey emphatically that he expects to see funds for eradicating illegal cannabis sites spent efficiently. Haupt especially does not want to see “any money left on the table” at the end of the year.

As monies are meant specifically for illegal grow eradication, the board wants to be sure that money is not wasted. Previously, an eradication team under the sheriff’s office did not use 100 percent of the funds allotted to them for getting rid of illicit grows – a fact with which the board took issue.

Lopey assured the board that he will “continuously monitor” the funds given to his department to be sure they are being spent in the most efficient and effective way possible. He stated, “As we go on, if I can shift any money to overtime (pay for officers), I will do that.”