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Eradication effort in California county yields 223,555 marijuana plants

  1. buseman
    A record 223,555 marijuana plants worth nearly a half-billion dollars were pulled from 20 remote Tuolumne County locations in the past two weeks by a team of local, state and federal officers.

    The street value is estimated at $447 million on the assumption that each plant could yield a pound of marijuana worth $2,000, according to Sgt. Jeff Wilson of the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department.

    Wilson said it was by far the largest haul in the northern California county's history. He couldn't pinpoint the next highest total, but a 2007 operation yielded 26,000 plants.

    Over the past few years, reported marijuana plant eradications in Tuolumne County generally have ranged from 5,000 to 15,000 plants.

    According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, California's top five counties in 2008 for marijuana discoveries were Lake (499,508 plants), Tulare (395,489), Shasta (394,375), Mendocino (231,802) and Humboldt (145,762).

    That the recent operation in Tuolumne County would have ranked fourth overall for that entire year makes the recent find even more startling.

    No arrests were made and no officers were injured during the operation, which wrapped up this week, Wilson said.

    Officers from the Tuolumne Narcotics Team, the U.S. Forest Service, the state department of Fish and Game, the Department of Justice Campaign Against Marijuana Planting and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management took part in the operation.

    One of the "gardens" discovered outside of Columbia yielded 66,000 plants, Wilson said.

    Some of the plants were fairly young, others were mature.

    The eradication season generally begins in late June and can extend into October, according to the DEA. Wilson said growers usually come into the area in the early spring, with the harvest season starting around now.

    Officers combed hillsides through deep underbrush, where most of the plants were found.

    To find the plants, Wilson said officers flew over forests around the county looking for sources of water, natural drainage points and the different type of green that often marks marijuana gardens. He said the gardens range in shapes and sizes, from 50 yards wide to narrow ones a mile long.

    He said those on the ground caring for the plants generally run off at the sound of the helicopter. Sometimes they're found, other times they're not.

    Once officers spot the garden, Wilson said, they return to base to land the helicopter and then head out on foot.

    Wilson said once officers arrive they start pulling the plants, putting stacks of 50 - counted and recorded by an officer - into a net to be hauled away by helicopter. They're put in a wood chipper and buried at an undisclosed location.

    While no suspects were caught, officers found ammunition, food and reading material, some that led them to believe the workers are from Mexico, Wilson said.

    He said the areas where plants were discovered wouldn't be a likely spot for hikers or campers.

    This is so deep in the underbrush, even if you were an avid hiker, you wouldn't go there because there's nothing to see, Wilson said.

    Fri, Jul. 02, 2010


  1. buseman
    Authorities Remove $22M in Marijuana from Angeles National Forest

    Thursday, a team of authorities from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics and Aero Bureaus, in a joint operation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and U.S. Forest Service removed 11,249 marijuana plants growing in the Angeles National Forest in the Knapp Ranch and Fish Canyon sections.

    The marijuana has an estimated street value of $22 million.

    The plants were growing illicitly on public lands. Since May of this year, detectives have eradicated a total of 96,441 illicit marijuana plants from public lands, with an estimated street value of over $192 million dollars, according to the Narcotics Bureau of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

    During the July 1 eradication operation, the team performed several other actions with a mind for public safety, including the removal of 1,560 pounds of trash, consisting of hazardous chemical fertilizers, pesticides, food, propane tanks, and camping equipment from the forest.

    In conjunction with the marijuana-growing operation, the authorities repaired the damage caused to three streams, and removed extensive irrigation systems which suspects used to divert water away from native plants and animals to irrigate the illicit crops.

    The Sheriff's Department pledges to continue to aggressively investigate and eradicate illicit crops, such as these, that are grown on public lands.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    By Lindsay William-Ross
    July 3, 2010
  2. buseman
    Santa Cruz Co. Marijuana Gardens Destroyed

    Officials in Santa Cruz County reported eradicating marijuana gardens containing more than 11,000 plants this week, according to the sheriff's office.

    On Wednesday, sheriff's deputies reported finding three marijuana gardens containing more than 8,000 plants in the area of state Highway 129 and Old Chittenden Road near Watsonville.

    No arrests were made, but investigators said that large areas of trees and brush had been cleared and terraced for the pot gardens, and loads of fertilizer and pesticide were found, according to the sheriff's office.

    A similar operation was uncovered when Cal Fire extinguished a 1-acre fire near state Highway 9 and Skyline Road.

    Firefighters contacted a man leaving the area on Highway 9 with an identification card from Mexico, who said he had been out jogging.

    The man, who reportedly had cuts and bruises consistent with rapidly moving through a densely forested area, was photographed and allowed to leave.

    A follow-up investigation revealed a marijuana grow containing around 3,000 plants within a few hundred feet of where the fire started, according to the sheriff's office. Pesticides, fertilizers and trash were found.

    No arrests were made, and no one was found in the garden, which was eventually eradicated Friday by the sheriff's office.

    Jul 3, 2010
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