After a week of raiding pot farms, drug enforcement officials in Humboldt County reportedly eradicated tens of thousands of marijuana plants in commercial growing operations on state and federal land across the county.
According to information from the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, authorities with multiple agencies raided four suspected for-profit pot gardens this week, netting around 21,000 plants, as well as a firearm and the detention of five suspected illegal immigrants.
Although agents are following leads, no suspected pot farmers were arrested in the raids, and no charges have been filed, said Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Brenda Godsey.
The operations — which may have been spotted from aircraft during the early summer — were likely unconnected, Godsey said.
”There’s no reason to believe these were connected,” she said. “But, make no mistake, those are commercial grows, and that’s what our targets are.”
According to information from a park official, marijuana growing on public land has been an issue for years, but agents are increasingly seeing larger, more damaging grows, often connected to Mexican drug rings.
On Monday, drug enforcement officers raided a growing operation on Forest Service property, south of Highway 299, in the Titlow Hill area. CAMP reported removing 6,500 plants from federal land.
On Wednesday, a multi-agency team of about 60 agents raided a large pot grow in Redwood National Park and Redwood State Park, which ended in the removal of nearly 9,600 plants and the arrests of five Mexican nationals, who were found about one mile from the pot farm.
According to National Park information, three of those arrested had previously been deported. All five suspects were transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, the National Park Service reported.
The marijuana growing operation discovered in the Redwood National Park was the largest discovered in the park to date.
The area of the grow is an international environmental landmark, known for its biodiversity and unique plant life. According to the National Park Service, the pot grow was located within six miles of the world’s tallest tree inside a park that is also a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve.
According to a report from park officials, the 4- to 5-acre grow caused significant ecological damage. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which reportedly damaged local ecosystems, were used in the gardens. Remediation efforts will be conducted in October.
A survey specialist with the National Park Service followed agents into the field to perform an immediate evaluation of the impacts the growing operation had on vegetation, water and wildlife. Authorities are hopeful that data will aid in restoration of the land.
It was the first time in National Park Service history that type of analysis was conducted in a national park following a pot raid, the agency reported.
An additional two operations were shut down by agents Thursday — one near Shively and Humboldt Redwoods State Park — and another inside Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office reported.
The growers near Shively reportedly cultivated around 3,000 plants, which were destroyed by agents. At the Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park pot grow, 1,800 plants and a shotgun were recovered.
Numerous agencies provided support in the busts. Those include the National Park Service, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, California Department of Justice, CAMP, North State Marijuana Investigation Teams, California Fish and Game, United States Coast Guard, Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Marshal Service and California Park Rangers.
The CAMP effort to eradicate pot gardens will continue, and agents will continue to investigate the growing operations, Godsey said.
Sean Garmire can be reached at