Authorities are not sure if there are more marijuana fields in Utah or if outdoor enthusiasts are becoming more aware of their surroundings.
The latest find just above Centerville a week ago of 12,000 marijuana plants on Forest Service land serves as a reminder that people are using and destroying public lands for illegal purposes, said Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Sue Thomas in Salt Lake City.
Utah has become a prime place for growing marijuana because it has favorable growing conditions, wide open spaces and remote, desolate areas, she said.
It's a tremendous abuse of our public lands, Thomas said.
In the past few years law enforcement has found a number of marijuana fields in all areas of Utah.
In 2009, DEA agents and local law enforcement officers pulled almost 84,000 marijuana plants off of public lands.
They plant the marijuana when you plant your garden and harvest the same time as you do, Thomas said.
Those who grow marijuana divert water from its natural paths, leave "copious amounts of garbage and trash," in the area and destroy the natural vegetation.
Hikers, bikers and those who enjoy the outdoors, should always be aware of their surroundings, said Layton Police Lt. Mark Chatlin, the public information officer for Davis Metro Narcotics Strike Force.
He said it is possible there may be other marijuana fields similar to the one found above Centerville hidden in the mountains, but hikers and bikers should not make an effort to find them for safety reasons.
One of the first signs of a possible marijuana field in the area is large amounts of trash, authorities said.
Growers also set up tents or make-shift shelter for sleeping and cooking.
Fertilizer bags are also left laying about, Thomas said.
Clippings of marijuana plants could be hanging to dry, she said.
Anyone who comes across what they think is a marijuana field should first get out as quickly and as quietly as they can, Chatlin said.
Don't let curiosity get to you, Thomas said. These are unsavory characters who are involved.
Many times those who are caring for the fields are also carrying guns.
If possible, those who find a field should note the location, either with a GPS receiver or by landmarks, then contact local law enforcement when in a safe place.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
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