Illegal grows hurting forest; public safety top priority

Law enforcement officials pour over plans for eradicating an illegal marijuana grow.

U.S. Forest Service
Law enforcement officials pour over plans for eradicating an illegal marijuana grow.



— Dust swirls in the air as a helicopter lifts drug task force officers above national forest lands just west of Wenatchee.

Their mission: eradicate thousands of illegal marijuana plants from cultivation sites within the Forest.

Below, an interdisciplinary team from the Chelan County Sherriff, U.S. Forest Service, Washington Department of Ecology Hazmat Division and the Drug Enforcement Administration wait for the first plants to be hauled out.

“Illegal grow operations are a serious problem,” Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Mike Kujala said. “These type of operations can compromise public safety in the woods and cause long-lasting ecological damage.”

This means recreationalists are in harm’s way, as is wildlife.

It is common at these types of illegal grow sites to find water diverted from natural streambeds, acres of trees cut down, trash littering the forest floor and unknown herbicides and pesticides in use.

“Nobody wants a potential hazmat site on the forest,” Kujala said. “Growing on public lands is never a victimless crime.”

Forest visitors are urged to report any suspected illegal cultivation sites to local law enforcement officials.

However, for public safety it is unwise to approach a suspected site at any time and people are told to leave the area as soon as possible; illegal growers can be armed and dangerous.

The forest service plans to continue work with the Columbia River Drug Task Force throughout 2017.



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