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January 29, 2015

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4-acre marijuana field found on Mount Charleston

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011 | 5:18 p.m.

Marijuana field found on Mount Charleston

Authorities seized thousands of marijuana plants Wednesday while investigating an outdoor grow operation on Mount Charleston, officials said.

Authorities seized thousands of marijuana plants Wednesday while investigating an outdoor grow operation on Mount Charleston, officials said.

Investigators found at least 3,000 — but probably closer to 4,000 — marijuana plants at the site and are airlifting them out, said Kent Bitsko, director of the federal Nevada High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program. They also found evidence of people camping at the site, which contained a water diversion system to feed the plants, he said.

U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Judy Suing said the 3- to 4-acre marijuana field was discovered by a routine aerial observation team several weeks ago. The location is in the Deer Creek area between Lee and Kyle canyons, she said.

Authorities, including Metro Police, the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the Drug Enforcement Administration, entered the site about 4:30 a.m. to collect evidence, Suing said.

“Our concern with a lot of these marijuana gardens is public safety,” she said.

She said the grow operations damage the environment by diverting water to the marijuana plants, while also harming wildlife and other plants with fertilizers and pesticides.

The area was likely hidden by trees and brush from the recreation area's many hikers. Removing the marijuana and airlifting the plants from the forest is a tiresome process that could stretch into Thursday, Bitsko said.

"It's rugged country," he said. "It's hard to sneak up on (the farms) and it's easy for them to disappear."

Illegal marijuana farms on public land are common in California and some other states, but outdoor growth was largely unheard of in Nevada's desert landscapes until recently, Bitsko said. At least 20 officers from local police agencies have received training in recent months on how to spot outdoor marijuana farms and officials in Sacramento have helped lead the training, Bitsko said.

Law enforcement officials suspect crackdowns in California are pushing the growers into Nevada.

Sarah Pullen, special agent in the Los Angeles field division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said authorities have been seizing more outdoor marijuana grow sites. Last year, authorities dismantled 1,481 outdoor grow sites in California compared to 12 in Nevada, according to DEA data.

The recent increase could mean there’s both more marijuana cultivating sites, many on public land, and better enforcement methods by authorities, Pullen said.

In California, the DEA works with the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement’s CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) program to dismantle operations, Pullen said. A task force including multiple agencies in Nevada works to do the same, she said.

Authorities conduct aerial and ground searches for the cultivating sites, where investigators often find garbage, tents for the site’s guards, chemical dumps and systems diverting water from nearby streams, Pullen said.

“You’d think it would be hard to see from the air, but the color of marijuana plants is so different, they tend to be easier to spot,” she said.

Drug trafficking organizations run most of the larger outdoor growing operations with guards protecting the sites, Pullen said. That setup can make it difficult for authorities to find the suspects responsible.

“It really varies,” Pullen said of arrests made in connection with the sites. “We try very hard to find them, but often the individuals at the locations are just paid to stay there.”

Bitsko said no suspects had been identified as of Wednesday afternoon in connection with the Mount Charleston site.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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  1. Comment removed by moderator.

  2. Unbelievable that marijuana is still illegal. When are we going to base our social policies on facts and science instead of rhetoric, religion, propaganda and political two stepping? To all the agencies involved in the bust: We know. We know what you do is a joke. Weed doesn't kill. You do. You lock up our loved ones to feed the prison industrial system. We know you get $$$ for the failed war on drugs budget. We know you get $$$ from confiscating property. We know you like to play bad ass and dress up in paramilitary outfits and carry semi automatic weapons to bust people growing harmless plants. You are a joke like the policy you enforce.

  3. 3-4 acres? Holy Shnikees!!! There has to be significant evidence of activity around there for a swath of land this large.

  4. You can bet there will be more to come on this operation. Any crop that large needs continous attention. If nothing else irrigation by itself is a problem on any farm growing whatever...Yes, there will be more to come. This is when we need a strong judicial system... which we do not have.

  5. tax and charge acreage rent! Can use the stems for string (hemp). quite a green operation, I thought the USA subsides that..

  6. Tina,

    Every time there is a bust many will post :Why is it not legal".

    Well, why don't the voters make it legal? Get it on the ballot and make it legal. Why complain when you have the power to change it.

  7. Legalize everything.

  8. Air observations along with the usage of an anonymous tip callers hot-line to the Las Vegas police department should help to deter citizens who wish to continue in the illegal growing of marijuana both indoors & outdoors.

    For individuals involved in helping to protect or guard these massive fields, you will find that most are heavily armed and quite prone to setting booby-traps for those who may venture or hike within the perimeter of their fields.

    The color of marijuana is significantly different from any other green vegetation upon the ground, and as mentioned in the above article can be easily spotted. But, not all who are trained will make the best observer, as it will take someone special who has a keen eye, absolute patience, and the ability to immediately spot plants that have been camouflaged or planted in such a way as to blend in with the natural terrain and landscape of the area.

  9. "Our concern with a lot of these marijuana gardens is public safety," she said."

    tinaa, James_P -- what you guys said!

    What is truly amazing is this proof of bloated police budgets in serious need of chopping. Airlifting plants that can grow anywhere, all that training from far away, so much of publicly-provided resources that are supposed to be scarce. Instead, how about just leaving people alone who aren't hurting anyone??

    "The struggle for liberty has been a struggle against Government. The essential scheme of our Constitution and Bill of Rights was to take Government off the backs of people." -- Columbia Broadcasting Sys., Inc. v. Democratic Nat'l Comm., 412 U.S. 94, 162 (1973), Justice Douglas concurring

  10. Wow, we could all have a great, really mellow campfire and eat s'mores & popcorn afterwards. LOL

  11. Big pharma will never allow pot to be legalized if they can help it.

  12. "Adults should be allowed to grow marijuana plants on their private property."

    VladRad -- actually, it's the other way around, this republic being founded on "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The concept of what our rulers "allow" us to do is one big reason why the Revolutionary War. Check the Declaration of Independence for that -- I believe enjoying the benefits of a natural botanical gift from the Creator would qualify as "pursuit of happiness." So long as you're not hurting somebody else, government lacks rightful authority.

    "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Isaac H Tiffany (1819)

  13. It is very profitable for the mafia and others whatever they are called these days. Hmmm - wonder how you say that politically acceptable? The other thing is that the prison industry loves it because it keeps the prisons full. And the whiskey industry has to be in seventh heaven because they have a monopoly on destroying people's lives through legal drugs. Face it, prohibition didn't work and its remnants in the drug industry figure out how to keep it going. Have a Coke - too bad it doesn't have cocaine in it. Can't get it past the voters because the Tea Party and others are better at harvesting the know nothing vote.

  14. Excellent work! Now we can keep buying our drugs from the violent Mexican cartels, the way God intended.