GOLETA, California, August 19, 2016 – Last week US Forest Service Law Enforcement & Investigations, Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, CA Department of Fish & Wildlife, and CA Department of Justice officers and agents removed several marijuana grow sites in the path of the Soberanes Fire. The gardens were removed to increase public and firefighter safety, and to protect natural resources.

Marijuana growing on National Forest System lands causes significant harm to the land, water and wildlife. Many toxic chemicals and lethal weapons found at these sites pose a hazard to employees and visitors. Herbicides and pesticides that are used to grow illegal marijuana can cause permanent damage to existing vegetation, soils and water. Propane tanks are often found at these sites, and have caused wildland fires in California.

As the Soberanes Fire grew, cooperating agencies identified and eradicated two marijuana gardens located on National Forest System lands. In the span of two days:

  • 17,300 marijuana plants were removed
  • 1,125 pounds of processed marijuana were seized
  • 1,400 pounds of trash and infrastructure were removed
  • 17 twenty-pound propane tanks were removed
  • Three dams that were restricting the natural flow of water resources were removed

Forest Service Special Agent in Charge Don Hoang announced the results of the raids, emphasizing the environmental impact of illicit drug activity: “National Forest System lands provide 60 percent of California’s surface water supply, in addition to the recreation and natural resources that benefit California’s economy, the Nation and the public. Large scale illicit marijuana cultivation sites, like the ones removed from the path of the Soberanes Fire, are operated by criminal drug trafficking organizations and present a health and safety hazard to the public, firefighters, other employees and wildlife.”

“Our Agents and Officers frequently encounter armed suspects, illegal hazardous pesticides, herbicides, and rodenticides, large quantities of trash, and altered diverted watersheds in illegal marijuana grows on the National Forests,” said Hoang. “These marijuana cultivation sites are occupied months at a time, with active camps and kitchens operating cook stoves and using propane tanks and fires in the height of fire season – these activities pose increased threats of devastating wildland fires.”

Editor’s note: The Soberanes Fire has grown to 81,396 acres and is 60% contained. 2,500 firefighters are assigned to the fire which started on July 22nd.