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Thousands of marijuana plants seized in Sequoia National Park


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Law enforcement officials raided a sophisticated marijuana farm Thursday and seized thousands of marijuana plants with a potential street value of tens of millions of dollars.

The seizure was announced Friday by the National Park Service.

The marijuana was being grown illegally in the wilderness of Sequoia National Park in the east fork drainage of the Kaweah River. By the end of the day Thursday, authorities report that 18,926 marijuana plants had been removed, with eradication efforts continuing Friday.

Alexandra Picavet of the National Park Service said the plants were nearing maturity and, had they fully matured, would have boasted a street value of $75 million.

Picavet said 13 National Park Service rangers and special agent, as well as 10 enforcement teams for Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) were taking part in the effort. They were assisted by a Blackhawk helicopter and crew from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The operation began early Thursday morning with helicopter reconnaissance using Forward Looking Infrared technology. Mounted to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement A-Star helicopter, the FLIR technology helped officers determine if any suspects were present at the site before entering the area.

Picavet said investigators collected "substantial evidence" from various growing areas that points to certain individuals. Picavet said firearms and other weapons were seized along with evidence of the use of hundreds of pounds of fertilizers and pesticides.

"The marijuana farm operation was organized and well maintained with numerous encampments throughout," Picavet said in announcing the operation Friday. "Several acres of underbrush had been removed by the growers to facilitate their plantation under the cover of natural shrubbery and trees. Though it was well masked, this site was detected by aerial surveillance and through investigative leads that were gathered following the arrest of four Mexican nationals on Aug. 19."

Picavet said the Mexican nationals, as well as the driver and passenger of the vehicle that picked them up, are under investigation for conspiracy to grow marijuana on public lands.

Anyone with information about suspicious activity in Sequoia or Kings Canyon national parks is encouraged to call toll free 1-888-677-2746. The caller can remain anonymous or may speak to park investigators.

Porterville Recorder Staff
The Porterville Recorder, 2003.
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