September 2nd, 2009 09:28 PM
Danger in the Forest
Be careful out there!
Wall Street Journal: Pot 'Plantations' on the Rise: Border Crackdown Makes Farming in U.S. Forests Attractive; Cartel Links Suspected
By STEPHANIE SIMON
Marijuana growers, many believed to be affiliated with Mexican drug cartels, are aggressively expanding their illegal farming operations in the U.S., clearing land to plant pot in dozens of national forests from coast to coast.
Illicit cannabis farms on public land first sprang up in California more than a decade ago and remain a serious problem in that state. But in the past two years, the U.S. Forest Service has documented a rapid expansion of the practice.
Authorities have discovered pot farms in 61 national forests across 16 states this year, up from 49 forests in 10 states last year. New territories include public land in Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Alabama and Virginia.
More than 51,000 marijuana plants were seized in Colorado's Pike National Forest in July.
"They're moving across the country," said David Ferrell, director of law enforcement for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which includes the Forest Service.
With the expansion comes an increased risk to campers and hikers -- a particular concern this Labor Day weekend, as families converge on public land just as many cannabis crops are ready for harvest.
The propane tanks, stoves and trash left behind by pot farmers pose fire risks; such a camp is believed to have sparked a fire last month that burned 88,000 acres in California's Los Padres National Forest. And many pot patches are watched over by armed guards or booby-trapped. Some are remote, but others are near popular tourist sites, such as a pot farm discovered late last month in California's Sequoia National Park, a half-mile from a cave famed for its crystal formations.
Operators of RV parks and campgrounds near public land have taken to warning vacationers to be cautious in the woods. Stockpiled food or trash of any type might be an indication of a prolonged campout linked to a pot farm, officials said. They advise hikers who spot such signs to retreat and call authorities.
The pot farms are not fly-by-night operations. Growers cut down trees and terrace canyons to create plantations big enough for tens of thousands of plants. They apply pesticides and herbicides -- some not approved for U.S. use. They dam or divert streams and hook together miles of PVC piping to build irrigation systems, some rigged to sophisticated timers.
Each camp is typically tended around the clock by guards who may be equipped with assault rifles, night-vision goggles, walkie-talkies and radios to monitor law-enforcement chatter.
"It seems like every year, they step it up a notch," said Michelle Gregory, a special agent with the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.
So far this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, federal agents have raided 487 pot farms on forest-service land, where they destroyed 2.6 million marijuana plants, seized 138 firearms and made 369 arrests on felony drug charges.
Nearly half the farms were tended by foreign nationals, and investigators say they believe some of the big operations are controlled by Mexican drug-trafficking rings. The investigation into the cartels' role is still at an early stage. But by tracing contacts, money trails and distribution networks, "we're starting to have success at linking these [pot farms] back to groups that have traditionally been enemies of ours in Mexico," said Jeff Sweetin, special agent in charge of the Rocky Mountain region for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The pot magnates also appear to be heavily involved in trafficking other drugs, such as methamphetamines and cocaine, Mr. Sweetin said.
Growing marijuana in the U.S. is increasingly attractive to foreign cartels because fencing and stepped-up patrols along the Mexican border have made it tougher to smuggle drugs into this country, said Howard Campbell, an anthropologist who studies the cartels at the University of Texas at El Paso.
The cartels have drug-distribution networks in more than 200 U.S. cities, so it is relatively simple for them to recruit workers to scout forests and tend pot crops across a broad swath of the country, Mr. Campbell said.
Pot growers may also find this a good time to expand because cash-strapped states and counties have cut patrols. California's marijuana task force, which includes local, state and federal agents, has reduced aerial surveillance and eliminated overnight stakeouts and overtime missions, according to Ms. Gregory.
In the Rocky Mountain region, Mr. Sweetin said some law-enforcement agencies can no longer devote resources to tracking suspects and building criminal cases; the most they can do is cut down marijuana plants when they find them -- and hope the growers don't return next season.
September 2nd, 2009 09:58 PM
Wow. When I started reading I expected small patches here and there hidden in valleys. Not full fledged irrigated fields!
September 2nd, 2009 10:40 PM
Nothing new here in Va......people been growing it in with their other crops for years.
Now that tobacco has taken a hit that's what some have turned to.....My wife is from the south west part of Va & it was famous for it's moonshiners (she had a great uncle killed by a 'revenuer')....now they grow mj.......
Quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit, occidentis telum est.-Seneca
"If you carry a gun, people will call you paranoid. If I have a gun, what do I have to be paranoid about?" -Clint Smith
"An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it." -Jeff Cooper
September 2nd, 2009 11:04 PM
meth and pot in the ozarks have been happening for years...
September 2nd, 2009 11:06 PM
And some want to curtail our right to defend ourselves
September 3rd, 2009 12:40 AM
Yup, we have these locally. You take a hunter ed. class and they tell you if you see pot, you better run, squirrel. One bust recently had a mexican national guarding it--he opened up on the LEO's with full auto while his partner fled.
These guys are offered massive cash rewards IF they bring the crop to harvest. Makes for some very well-motivated guards.
September 3rd, 2009 12:56 AM
R&G, did you read/hear about the pot farm near Deckers Colorado they busted about a week ago? I would have to double check, but I think they said an estimated 14 thousand plants. Crazy stuff.
September 3rd, 2009 11:18 AM
I came across a small set of cultivated plots while deep forest hiking in a remote area of MN. Nemadji State Forest, to be exact. I've told the story a few times here already. Luckily nobody was there but I worried that somebody saw me and that I'd be shot in the back. That was three years ago.
I now like to carry my AR while deep woods hiking. Deep woods is just that, little to no chance of encountering another human; I don't want anyone to think I'm pretending to hunt "charley" any more than I want to run into a pot farm. But given the choice between the two I'd rather have some vegitarian hiker think that I'm a rambo-wanna be; than to be rotting in the forest because I had no exit plan.
It's not the same world that I grew up in. The libtards have been working on the 'hope and change' thing since the 60's and they have succeeded. The world where we used to not even lock our doors and doctors used to carry meds in little bags is now long gone, and in it's place is the crazy guy on the bus staring at me, gangsta's threatening to bust a cap in my @ss if I even glance at them, and even when I get away to the forest I have to worry about being shot in the back because I accidentally stumbled across some jackass's plot.
"Why do you carry a gun?" Gimme a break.
September 3rd, 2009 11:31 AM
1. a deep moral crisis happens during which everyone stops buying illegal guns. The former cartels increase their activities in human trafficking and child prostitution.
2. drugs are legalized. Drugs become unprofitable and the cartels have to go back into human trafficking etc.
It's a sick situation. As long as people spend lots of money on drugs and related activities we will have what we have. Also, banks like drug runners for obvious reasons, although they won't say this out loud.
Sig 226, 228. Glock 19, 23. Smith Model 60,and 1911. XD45 Tactical. Mossberg 930 SPX.
How we behave as gun owners is important. Posturing and threatening does not serve us well in the public eye.
September 3rd, 2009 03:20 PM
Back in the '70s I tried to get on at a national refuge about twenty miles from my home. The person I spoke with had a plant in a coffee can on his window sill. When I asked him about it he gave me the same basic scenario without the violence. The perps were never caught. Problem is these days you can get killed for your Ipod or two bucks (whichever you happen to have). A multi thousand dollar crop of pot is going to instigate a great deal more violence than an Ipod.
September 3rd, 2009 03:25 PM
+1 Way more than I was expecting too!
Originally Posted by KralBlbec
September 3rd, 2009 03:56 PM
Here ya go Ronin: from The Mountain Jackpot:http://www.mountainjackpot.com/
Originally Posted by BaserRonin
This is a great reason to carry while in the woods, whether open carry or concealed, subject of course to the patchwork of local, state and federal laws.
Drug Cartel Pot Farm Seized in National Forest
Local hikers could confront a new dangerous obstacle when trekking through the national forest: pot farms operated by major drug cartels and pot farmers with guns.
Last week, authorities seized more than 14,000 marijuana plant near Deckers, considered the largest pot-growing operation found in the state. A pot farm the size of a football field and valued at more than $5 million was discovered in the Pike National Forest. The pot farm was located close to prime hiking and fishing spots frequented by area outdoor buffs.
Besides marijuana plants, authorities from several agencies found a rifle, piles of discarded garbage and propane tanks. This could have posed a growing pollution problem if the operation continued without interruption, according to authorities.
A few arrests of illegal immigrants have occurred in relation to this incident. The names of the immigrants are being withheld. Earlier, authorities discovered smaller pot farms in the area, but nothing of the magnitude of the Deckers operation.
The latest seizure has raised the ire of forest service officials, who worry about the Pike National Forest getting invaded by international drug cartels. This trend is attributed to the crackdown against the movement of marijuana across the U.S./Mexican borders.
“I don’t want it to get to the point where it is not safe for the public to go out in the national forests,” said Michael Skinner, assistant agent in charge of the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region.
In addition to the latest seizure, authorities had previously discovered a pot farm in the Pike National Forest near Cheesman Reservoir, with an estimated value of $2.5 million.
Authorities are baffled by this trend, which involves actual Mexican farmers who use sophisticated equipment to harvest and prepare the marijuana for shipment. Authorities believe the workers have been hired by drug cartels, who are encountering more difficulties in moving marijuana grown in Mexico. These activities provide a risk to area hikers and to the environment, according to officials.
In recent years, Colorado has been linked to drug cartels in Mexico, with Hwy. 25 identified as prime corridor for transferring drugs. Isolated havens near rural areas like Teller County are viewed as prime getaways for cartel members or pot farmers, warn authorities.
As a result of the latest discoveries, authorities are advising hikers to be on their guard when walking through the national forest. They are being asked to watch out for unnatural trails in areas where no previous routes existed. Also, hikers are warned not to take any pictures or record GPS positions under any circumstances.
Instead, Skinner advises outdoor buffs to hike away from the area in question and call authorities.
According to authorities, no known injuries or deaths have occurred due to the pot farm operation near Deckers. But this potential is raising big concern among forest officials who are understaffed in trying to monitor 14 million acres of forest in Colorado.
According to a report in the Denver Post, forest authorities in the Pike National Forest region are requesting $100,000 to further investigate the recently-seized pot farm.
The photo of the Deckers bust appeared to be taken in an area in which the Hayman fire had run too.
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