Bear hunters happened upon large marijuana grow in northern Wallowa County. Oregon State Police in remote northeastern Oregon destroyed more than 91,000 marijuana plants, found a stash of weapons and arrested six suspects this week, stubbing out what they call the biggest outdoor pot operation ever discovered in the state.
A multi-agency investigation started this spring, after bear hunters happened upon the site on public land in northern Wallowa County and reported it to police.
Early Wednesday morning, law enforcement closed in.
Rallying help from a dozen agencies, including support from the Oregon State Police SWAT team and in the air from the Oregon Army National Guard, police arrived at the national forest site where plants as small as starts and as big as 10 inches stretched for more than a mile.
Growers apparently had removed trees and underbrush in a ravine they'd terraced extensively.
In addition to the suspects, police found guns that included semi-automatic long-barreled weapons, and campsites with enough supplies to sustain growers for several weeks.
Heaps of trash, miles of plastic tubing, plastic plant containers, herbicides and other toxic chemicals had been dumped along a river's edge, according to Wallowa County Sheriff Fred Steen.
As the investigation continues, the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division will study potential environment damage caused by the growing operation, "which had been going on for a substantial period," a news release said.
"Many people would be outraged at the damage to our public lands caused by illegal marijuana growers," said Sgt. John Shaul of the La Grande Police Department, which took part in the bust.
Lodged in Union County Jail and charged with unlawful manufacture and possession of marijuana are: Arturo B. Barrera, 26; Federico R. Carrasco, 24; Christian R. Gonzalez, 28; Fredy F. Montes, 32; Jesus A. Sanchez, 21; and Audel C. Soto, 29.
They may also face charges related to environmental crimes.
Police haven't confirmed where the suspects are from.
Steen, the Wallowa sheriff, urges Oregonians to be careful recreating this summer in the state's remote areas, since this and other grow operations typically have been occupied by people armed with weapons.
June 17, 2011
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Police bust biggest marijuana plantation ever found in Oregon