Feds investigate marijuana growing operations in Colorado national forests
August 26, 2009
GOLDEN (AP) – The U.S. Forest Service is looking at how much marijuana is being illegally cultivated in Colorado’s national forests following the recent discovery of more than 14,000 plants in the Pike National Forest.
Forest Service officials said Wednesday they believe illegal immigrants are being brought to Colorado for mass cultivation of marijuana and they are leaving behind a trail of trash, pesticides and other debris that has damaged public forests and polluted rivers.
“We don’t know what we have right now. This activity is new to us,” said Michael Skinner, a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service.
In July, authorities spent more than 24 hours clearing a marijuana growing operation on forest land near Cheesman Reservoir. They say the plants’ street value was about $2.5 million
Authorities say there was an elaborate irrigation system at the site. No suspects have been identified in that case, but two others were arrested at the Pike National Forest site.
Skinner said national forests are safe, but hikers should take precautions.
He said warning signs include heavily used trails where there are no marked trails, food wrappers, irrigation supplies on trails and traces of fertilizer. He said hikers should be careful around camps using tarps, small propane tanks and illegal permanent log structures being used for drying sheds.
Skinner said people who find such camps should not take photos or make cell phone calls, and instead should hike out quickly and call police.
“Our goal is to not allow organizations using foreign nationals or any other persons in illegal drug production to take over our national forests,” Skinner said.