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Deep in the Wisconsin woods, pot growing thrives (Mexican Cartels)

  1. Basoodler

    LAKEWOOD, Wis. - The silence of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is broken only by the sound of Jeff Seefeldt's boots as he walks toward a clearing in the deep woods.

    Seefeldt, a district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service, points out the trees and brushes that were cut down to make room for an illicit crop and piled into a makeshift fence meant to keep animals and human intruders out. He gestures toward the creek from which water was hauled to keep thousands of marijuana plants growing.

    This spot is a reminder of a new danger in Wisconsin's north woods: large marijuana-growing operations tended by armed illegal immigrants from Mexico. The first such site was discovered in the 1.5-million-acre national forest in 2008. Similar operations have been discovered every year since then.

    "I'm very concerned about it," Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says. The problem in his state, he says, is "as bad as anywhere in the country." Most people arrested have been illegal immigrants from Mexico with connections in California, he says, and their operations are "consistent with drug-trafficking organizations out of Mexico."

    In the most recent Chequamegon-Nicolet bust in August, federal prosecutors charged seven people with manufacturing marijuana with the intent to distribute it. More than 8,000 plants worth $8 million were seized. Their cases are pending.

    Earlier this year, four Mexican citizens were sentenced to federal prison for their involvement in a conspiracy to manufacture marijuana in the national forest. They were arrested in an August 2011 raid after hunters discovered their grow site the previous fall.

    To Seefeldt, it is more than a crime. "It gives me a disgust in my stomach that people come here with no respect for the land, no respect for the people that use it, no respect for the resources," he says.
    Authorities were tipped off by a fisherman in the latest case. Law enforcement officials then flew over the area and spotted several growing sites. The criminal complaint says investigators set up digital cameras to monitor activity and installed tracking devices on vehicles driven to the marijuana growing operations. When the site was raided, bags full of marijuana processed for distribution were seized.

    David Spakowicz, director of field operations for the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation's eastern region, says the state once thought it was "immune" from the sort of marijuana operations that have long existed in California and other Western states. He hopes Wisconsin's policy, which he describes as "we're not only going to take your plants, we're going to arrest you," will soon be a deterrent.

    Since 2010, there have been 32 arrests in connection with marijuana grow sites in Wisconsin's only national forest, a state forest, state wildlife area and on private property. Weapons were found in all but one of those cases, Spakowicz says.

    In the last couple of years, the growers have changed their business model, he says. Instead of using a single, large growing site, they plant in many smaller spaces to help avoid detection. They also are moving deeper into the forest; a 2010 site that was raided was just a few hundred feet from a road.

    The way the sites are managed follows a pattern, Spakowicz says. Workers are recruited and brought to Wisconsin to plant and tend the crops. They rarely leave the site and sleep in tents or makeshift shelters. "We've had some workers tell us, 'I was supposed to come to Green Bay to work in a restaurant,'" and some don't even know what state they're in, he says. They don't get paid until the crop is harvested and are told little about other aspects of the operation.

    Spakowicz says growing marijuana inside the U.S. makes economic sense to drug traffickers: There's no risk of detection at the U.S.-Mexico border, as there is for marijuana grown in Mexico, and because the drug is distributed to nearby cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis, there's less a of a chance of being caught transporting it.

    The damage left behind can be dramatic. Garbage, the carcasses of poached deer, poisons used to keep animals from harming the crop, pesticides and fertilizers make a mess and can harm the soil and streams. It can take years for trees hacked down to make room for the plants to be replaced with new growth.
    Seefeldt says brush removed from stream banks so water can be siphoned to the grow sites can alter water temperatures, affecting the delicate trout that are plentiful here. Those streams, he says, "will take awhile to heal."

    Van Hollen says the state will continue to ramp up efforts to crack down on the problem. "We want to take these criminals off the streets, make sure they're held accountable," he says. "Eventually that's going to (be) a deterrent."

    Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



  1. Basoodler
    Re: Deep in the woods, pot growing thrives

    I find it odd that Mexican cartels operate all the way into Wisconsin. It makes sense however, due to the remote nature of some of the wilderness areas.. I just figure they could find a spot closer to home
  2. Ghetto_Chem
    Not sure about Mexicans being the main culprits in this. Coming from a foaf that lives in WI, there are alot of outdoor grow ops going on but they are being run by every different type of person you could think of. To be honest the biggest growers that pull it off are probably the farmers. Some of them have absolutely huge warehouses that could be used. Not to mention the vast amount of nature even in the more populated areas of the state. Alot of times they get found right along cornfields, where they are able to get the most amount of sun but still are hidden in the tree line.

    Lets put it this way, he has stumbled across grows ops in the woods before. Mid October one time, the buds were ready to be picked that day. This was in the middle of a very wooded area long hike out. But the buds were perfect and looking dank as fuck, which was impressive considering the area is overrun with deer. He has also come across clearings as they describe many times, sometimes with the leftover pots still in them.

    When you come across a grow op in the woods you get two feelings, first amazement, then fear that somebody may be watching you with a scope...

  3. Emin
    Yeah, I know that feeling. There are two outdoor ops that I know of around these parts, which I don't understand because we have a short growing season. As does Wisconsin. I know of a lot more indoor operations, usually hiding right under your nose. Can't the cartel afford to put them in a house or warehouse? They're making millions of dollars...
  4. Basoodler
    An x-gf told me of grow operations in the Ohio valley. She said she heard of grows in locations similar to those and other more creative locations.. such as hanging in pine trees, or in old abandoned mines (abundant in the area) with artificial lighting run on generators lol . I can't say that I've heard about Mexican grows. But northern/ east Kentucky, western west Virginia and southern central and eastern Ohio are nothing but deep woods.. where the rules set by the states or federal government often don't apply.. so who knows
  5. coolhandluke

    this is bull shit, im a fly fisherman and can tell you they'd have to have a pretty big irrigation system to disturb a trout stream enough to where it would harm the trout. if the water is deep and cold enough to have trout they'd have to be growing a lot of plants in one spot to need so much water. also many many streams run through normal farms the DNR leases for fishing and im sure fertilizers trickle into them like that. im from wisconsin and find this a little surprising, there really is not much of a mexican immigrant population where i live (things are different in southern wisconsin, maybe along lake michigan too) and the farther north you go i couldn't see things getting more diverse.

    i just am hesitant to believe that these are big cartel operations but who knows i guess.

    also hemp grows ALL OVER the place from when they planted it for the war effort in the 40's so growing wouldn't be like introducing an invasive species to the land.

    j.b van hollen is a piece of shit for the record.
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