A crackdown on marijuana cultivation in Mendocino National Forest that began two weeks ago so far has resulted in 100 arrests and destruction of 468,960 pot plants, federal officials said Friday in Ukiah.
“This is an intolerable situation and it has to be stopped,” said Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.
Armed marijuana gardeners have been turning national forests into dangerous places to hike, fish and hunt and are littering public lands with toxic chemicals and trash, she said.
As of Friday, Operation Full Court Press also had removed more than 23 tons of trash, 22 miles of irrigation line, 2,171 pounds of fertilizer and 57 pounds of pesticides from the one million forest that covers parts of six counties.
The tally also included confiscation of 1,510 pounds of processed marijuana, 32 weapons and 11 vehicles.
More than 300 people from 25 local, state and federal agencies last week simultaneously launched marijuana eradication and cleanup efforts in Mendocino, Lake, Colusa, Trinity, Tehama and Glenn counties.
It’s one of the largest operations of its kind. A similar, three-county effort last year in the Central Valley, Operation Trident, resulted in the eradication of more than 465,00 marijuana plants, primarily from public lands in the Sierra foothills and mountains.
Still, operations of these sizes account for a small fraction of the plants seized each year by the state’s separate yearly multi-agency Campaign Against Marijuana Planting. Last year, 4.3 million marijuana plants were destroyed in California during the regular, three-month operation. Almost 75 percent of the plants were on public lands. More than 570,000 plants were seized last year in Mendocino County alone.
The current operation grew from a Mendocino County Board of Supervisors’ meeting in Covelo where several residents of the county’s remote northeastern region complained they’d been fired upon in or near the Mendocino National Forest.
“We said ‘something has to be done,’” said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman, who is credited with instigating Operation Full Court Press.
Officials on Friday said they do not know the cost of the massive eradication operation. Nor did they divulge details of those arrested or whether any have been connected to Mexican organized crime, as officials have long suspected.
Allman said some of those arrested in Mendocino County have local connections, but he would not elaborate.
Some Covelo-area residents who must drive on forest roads to reach their property have complained about being stopped by law enforcement officers and questioned. But most are happy to have the presence, Allman said.
Operation Full Court Press continues into late next week. Regular marijuana eradication efforts will continue and another crackdown in national forests is expected next year.
“This is not a one-time operation,” Allman said.
By GLENDA ANDERSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Published: Friday, July 29, 2011
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