DENVER — Two large unrelated marijuana grow operations were discovered and dismantled in September on public land in Colorado by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Colorado, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and local, state and federal agencies also assisted with these law enforcement operations.
Acting on a tip, BLM rangers discovered the first illegal grow operation Sept. 15 on National System of Public Lands managed by BLM along the Dolores River corridor between Gateway and Naturita, Colorado. They discovered more than 1,200 fully mature marijuana plants, many exceeding six feet tall, along with 211 kilograms (465 pounds) of dried marijuana and a rifle. The rangers arrested four Mexican nationals who were on-scene and believed to be working the grow site. Because of the size of the operation, officers spent two and a half days eradicating and removing the plants.
A second illegal grow operation was discovered by the same rangers with the assistance of Mesa and Montrose county sheriff’s offices Sept. 30 near the first site. Law enforcement officers arrested one Honduran and five Mexican nationals at the second grow site. There was evidence of thousands of marijuana plants which appeared to have been recently harvested; 69.6 kilograms (153 pounds) of processed marijuana was still on site. Both grow locations were located in Montrose County.
“Illicit marijuana grows on public lands violate the drug laws and harm the environment,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh, District of Colorado. “This Fall, Colorado has seen an explosion in the number and size of illicit marijuana grows on public land, which federal and state authorities are aggressively investigating and prosecuting.”
“In addition to being illegal, these grow-sites create impacts to public lands, including destruction of native vegetation, hazardous materials and significant trash,” said Grand Junction (Colorado) Field Manager Katie Stevens. “We appreciate the cooperation of a number of other agencies including the Mesa and Montrose county sheriff’s offices, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.”
“This case is a good example of why a multi-jurisdictional drug task force is so beneficial,” said Sergeant Tyler Wallace, 7th Judicial District Drug Task Force.
“It is encouraging to see the coordinated efforts put forth by multiple agencies to combat illegal marijuana grows in Montrose County," said Montrose County Undersheriff Adam Murdie.
These marijuana grow operations and the subsequent investigation was conducted by the BLM, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office, 7th Judicial District Drug Task Force, the U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
ICE placed detainers with the U.S. Marshals Service on all 10 illegal aliens arrested during these operations.
Those arrested are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.