Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012 | 3:42 p.m.
Police have seized more than 30,000 marijuana plants in the last two months as part of an ongoing crackdown on grow operations on public lands in seven western states, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Operation Mountain Sweep, which includes representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the DEA, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and local law enforcement, is targeting outdoor marijuana grows in Nevada, Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
The total value of the marijuana seized at four grow sites in Nevada — three in the northern part of the state and one in the Southern Nevada — is estimated at $61.7 million, officials said. It represents more than two-thirds of all the marijuana seized in the Nevada over the last two months.
In California, 483,759 plants were seized during July and August, an amount which is valued at $967.5 million dollars, authorities said.
The DEA estimates each plant seized can produce a pound of marijuana, which is valued at $2,000.
Outdoor grow sites on public lands have become increasingly common in Nevada, where the number of plant seizures tripled between 2010 and 2011.
Paul Rozario, the Nevada DEA’s assistant specialist agent in charge , said outdoor grow sites often involve the use of pesticides and fertilizers that can have severe negative impacts on surrounding streams and wildlife.
Sites are often littered with trash, and growers often clear cut large swaths of land to make room for the marijuana plants, he said.
The people who guard the sites are often armed, which can make for a dangerous situation for hikers, hunters or forest service employees who may stumble upon an outdoor growing operation.
“These illegal growing operations are a serious public safety issue,” Rozario said. “From the pollution of the public lands from toxic chemicals to the violence associated with drug trafficking organizations, illegal marijuana cultivation is wreaking havoc on our public lands and causing extensive environmental damage.”
Operation Mountain Sweep runs through the end of August, but the marijuana growing season will continue for a few more months. Rozario said he expects several more sites will be raided in Nevada before the end of the year.