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Colorado National Guard assists authorities with marijuana bust in Pike National Forest 
 
Marijuana 
Photo provided by Douglas County Sheriff's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010  

CONTACT:
Steve Segin
(303) 275-5346,
ssegin@fs.fed.us
USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region
740 Simms Street
Golden, CO  80401

CONTACT:

Deputy Cocha Heyden/PIO
(303) 826-7822, cheyden@dcsheriff.net
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
4000 Justice Way
Castle Rock, CO 80109

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (9/8/10) Law enforcement officers from the U.S. Forest Service and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office have completed eradication operations on two separate marijuana plantations in the Pike National Forest. 

The joint operation involved the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, The U.S. Forest Service, The Colorado National Guard, South Metro Fire Department, DEA, and The South Metro Drug Task Force. The first operation was conducted on August 25 and the second was today, September 8, 2010.

“We appreciate the team work shared between all agencies involved and even though we did not apprehend the suspects today we feel this was a successful operation,” said Douglas County Sheriff David A. Weaver. 

Both cultivation sites were located near the Deckers, Colorado area and contained in total 4,400 Marijuana plants. It is estimated that the value of the plants exceeds $8 million dollars.  Crews removed the marijuana plants as well as an extensive drip irrigation system. Helicopters from the Colorado Army National Guard assisted by airlifting the plants and other debris associated with the plantation site from the area.

During the operation today, September 8th, officers encountered four Hispanic males that fled the scene.  The clothing description for the males; one was wearing a blue or gray Carhart jacket, one had on a black jacket, the third had a brown Carhart jacket and the fourth had on camouflage pants and a maroon sweatshirt.  They all fled on foot and officers were unable to locate them. An Emergency Notification was sent out to 174 phone numbers in a four mile radius of the scene, alerting citizens to be on the lookout for the four suspects.  While they have not been located, deputies are still in the area looking for them.  If citizens do spot these suspects they are requested to call 911 right away.  Officers did recover firearms at the site.

“Over the last two years, large-scale marijuana grow operations have been discovered on National Forest lands in Colorado.  These grow operations are believed to be connected to the Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) that have proliferated on public lands throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Utah, and are now being found in the northeastern, southeastern and southwestern states,” said U.S. Forest Service Special Agent in Charge, Laura Mark.

Because of the significant threat to public, employee and law enforcement safety, coupled with the tremendous resource damage to the environment, aggressively dealing with these DTO operations has become a priority for Forest Service Law Enforcement with the overall objective to provide safe federal public lands and a healthy environment to enjoy now and in the future, free from the dangers of illegal drug production.

“The only way to successfully identify, disrupt and dismantle these organizations is through cooperative efforts with our Federal, State, and local law enforcement partners and collaboration with the public to provide information,” said Mark.  

The vast majority of National Forests are safe and free of illegal marijuana activities.  In fiscal years 2008 and 2009, the Forest Service detected and eradicated marijuana growing operations on only a fraction of the lands they manage --- fewer than 40,000 acres of the total 193 million acres that the agency manages. Last year in Colorado 9 marijuana plantations were raided with 23,824 plants eradicated.

Forest Service law enforcement personnel have significantly increased patrols in high-incidence traffic areas to combat the illegal activities. The agency is also increasing its number of trained law enforcement personnel and introducing advanced detection measures in partnership with other federal, state and local law enforcement organizations.

While illegal marijuana cultivation poses a public safety risk, it also directly harms the environment. The illegal use of pesticides can cause extensive long-term damage to natural resources.  For example, the supply of public drinking water for hundreds of miles may be impacted because of one marijuana growing site. Overall, the negative impact of marijuana sites on natural resources is severe. Human waste and trash are widespread, contamination from sites affects fish and wildlife habitats, and soil erosion is common.  In addition, water usage is extreme because each marijuana plant is estimated to require a gallon of water per day – water that is critical to native vegetation, wildlife, and public drinking water sources.

Forest visitors are urged to be observant while hiking and camping in secluded areas and to back out and call for help if they come across suspicious activities.  More detailed information can be obtained from local Forest Service offices.

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9/7/2010