Another Large Marijuana Bust In Pike National Forest

$8 Million In Marijuana Discovered Near Deckers

Law enforcement officers 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 Aug. 25 and the second was carried out Wednesday.

“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.

The cultivation sites were located near Deckers and contained a total of 4,400 Marijuana plants. Officials estimated that the value of the plants at more than $8 million.

Crews removed the marijuana plants as well as an extensive drip irrigation system. They also recovered firearms at the site. Helicopters from the Colorado Army National Guard assisted by flying plants and debris associated with the plantation site out of the area.

During Wednesday's operation, officers encountered four Hispanic men who fled the scene. An emergency notification was sent out to 174 phone numbers within a four-mile radius of the scene, alerting citizens to be on the lookout for the men. Deputies are still in the area looking for them. If citizens do spot the men they are requested to call 911 immediately. Officers did recover firearms at the site.

Last year, several large marijuana grow sites were found in the Pike National Forest, near Deckers.

“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 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 Laura Mark, U.S. Forest Service special agent in charge.

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, nine 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.

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.