Marijuana plantations a scourge on private lands
Illicit marijuana plantations not only plague public lands in the north state, but they're a problem on private property as well.
Of the more than 600,000 illegal plants pulled from the north state this year, 180,000 - close to a third - were found in 51 gardens on private land such as ranches. Another 33,000 plants were discovered in 11 growing areas on private timberland, said Sgt. Steve Solus of the Shasta County Sheriff's Office.
"They think they are safe if they are growing behind someone's gate," Solus said.
Marijuana typically is planted in the most remote corners of range or timberland and often grows undetected unless a hunter or forester stumbles upon it, he said. While some of the plantations are put in by trespassers, others are planted by people hired to work the land or cattle.
Given access to the land, some ranch hands and other workers will use the chain saws, shovels and other equipment provided by their bosses to plant the pot, said Warden DeWayne Little with the state Department of Fish and Game.
"Lots of times the ranchers have no idea what is going on with their property," Solus said.
Often the ranches targeted by pot growers have absentee landowners or are on large spreads, said DFG Patrol Lt. Scott Willems.
"The bigger the piece of property, the harder it is for people to keep an eye on the whole thing," he said.
To prevent people from growing pot on private land, Willems said it is best for landowners to have people they trust working their land.
Indicators of a possible illegal grow include decreased water flows on creeks through the property, new trails and the telltale smell of pot, he said.
Key to a pot plantation is a source of water, Willems said.
To bring water to the plants, marijuana growers will sometimes install miles of irrigation pipe, he said, and then try to hide it by painting or burying it.
"It is pretty amazing the efforts that will be put into developing some of these water sources," Willems said.
On timberland, foresters have been trained to look for signs of illegal pot plantations and call the Sheriff's Office as soon as they see them, said Steven Henson, California operations manager for Roseburg Forest Products. He said the vastness of timber holdings in the north state and their proximity to Interstate 5 make them inviting to illegal pot gardens.
While the company has put in an intricate system of gates to limit motorized access to its lands, those looking to grow marijuana are still hiking in.
"This is an ongoing problem," Henson said.
Reporter Dylan Darling can be reached at 225-8266 or [email protected].
Pulled pot plants
Law enforcement officials in Shasta County have pulled 612,000 illegal marijuana plants from plantations so far this year. Here's a breakdown of where the plants were found:
Bureau of Land Management: 7 plantations, 179,000 plants.
National Park Service: 2 plantations, 16,000 plants.
U.S. Forest Service: 16 plantations, 204,000 plants.
Ranches and other property: 51 plantations, 180,000 plants.
Sierra Pacific Industries: 6 plantations, 11,000 plants.
Roseburg Forest Products: 5 plantations, 22,000 plants.
Source: Shasta County Sheriff's Office
By Dylan Darling
Comment these numbers are probably very low as they do not look to include the seizures by the Feds. Federal busts in N. CA are being kept out of the papers.