U.S. Attorneys from multiple states have announced Operation Mountain Sweep, an eight-week project targeting large-scale marijuana grows on public lands. The operation will involve multiple agencies and multiple states.
The operation, which began in July and will run through August, will take place on public lands in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington, a press release stated. So far, the operation has eradicated more than 578,000 illegal marijuana plants with the help of local, state and federal law enforcement. An estimate from the Drug Enforcement Agency puts those plants worth well over $1 billion, the press release stated.
As of last week, more than 96 illegal grow sites in California had been shut down, totaling more than 484,000 plants or 66 percent of marijuana plants seized since June 1, the press release stated. Numerous arrests were made. Miles of irrigation line, a large amount of trash, fertilizer and pesticides were also removed from public land.
On Aug. 21, officials visited a marijuana grow being eradicated in the Eldorado National Forest in El Dorado County, the press release stated. The officials included Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; Tom Tidwell, the chief of the U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner; El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini; Bureau of Land Management State Director Jim Kenna; and Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin of the California Army and Air National Guard.
The operation has already led to 14 indictments in the Eastern District of California, the press release stated.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner was quoted in the press release as saying, “Those who cultivate marijuana on public lands pose a safety threat to the public and an environmental threat to the land. Many of the grow sites are controlled by drug trafficking organizations, which arm their cultivators with dangerous firearms. The poisons they spread kill wildlife and native plants and pollute watersheds. As a result, law enforcement from a variety of agencies dedicated resources to the investigation, eradication and reclamation to control this illegal activity. In this district, sheriff’s deputies and California Department of Justice officers worked shoulder to shoulder with federal agents from the U.S. Forest Service, BLM, DEA and other agencies.”
“Marijuana trafficking organizations seek to turn our nation’s parks and public lands into their own drug havens,” added DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Operation Mountain Sweep is a concerted effort to reclaim these wild and beautiful areas and protect them from further destruction and exploitation. Thanks to the ongoing commitment of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we will continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute marijuana traffickers wherever they operate and hide.”