Forest Service Eradicates Marijuana Cultivation Site on National Forest

Release Date: Sep 23, 2013

Contact(s): Chris Strebig, Office 303-275-5346 Cell 303-681-1773

Glenwood Springs, Colo., (Sept. 23, 2013)– Law Enforcement Officers from the U.S. Forest Service completed an eradication operation of an illegal marijuana growing site in the White River National Forest.  The site was discovered about a week ago by two archery hunters who reported it to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department.

The illegal grow site was located near Redstone, Colorado and contained 3,375 marijuana plants. It is estimated that the value of the plants was approximately $8.4 million based on the average value of $2,500 per pound. Each plant is estimated to yield 1 pound of processed material. Crews removed the marijuana plants, dismantled the irrigation system and removed items left in a make-shift camp utilized by the grower(s). Helicopters assisted by airlifting the plants and other debris associated with the illegal growing site from the area. No arrests have been made and the case remains under investigation.

“Growing marijuana on national forest lands will not be tolerated,” said Scott Fitzwilliams, Forest Supervisor for the White River National Forest. “These cultivation sites cause significant resource damage and endanger visitors who may stumble upon a large amount of marijuana with a large street value.”

The White River National Forest is America’s most visited national forest with 9 million visitors each year.

“Our priority is public and employee safety. We will seek out and remove these grow sites so that hikers, hunters and others who enjoy the White River National Forest won’t be at risk,” added Fitzwilliams.

Because of the significant threat to public, employee and law enforcement safety, coupled with the tremendous resource damage to the environment, eradicating marijuana cultivation sites continues to be an important priority for the Forest Service.

“Under federal law, marijuana possession, use, or cultivation remains illegal on national forest lands” said U.S. Forest Service Special Agent in Charge, Laura Mark. “The Forest Service remains committed to providing safety to forest visitors and employees and protecting the natural resources.” “This includes taking enforcement action for possession, use and cultivation of marijuana on national forest lands.”

The vast majority of National Forests are safe and free of illegal marijuana activities, with a fraction of the 193 million acres of the lands managed by the Forest Service impacted by cultivation activity. Since 2009, 34 illegal marijuana grow sites and more than 65,000 marijuana plants have been eradicated from National Forests in Colorado.

While illegal marijuana cultivation poses a public safety risk, it also directly harms the environment. The illegal use of pesticides can cause extensive long-term damage to natural resources.  For example, the supply of public drinking water for hundreds of miles may be impacted because of one marijuana growing site. Overall, the negative impact of marijuana sites on natural resources is severe. Human waste, trash and the use of pesticides are widespread, contamination from sites affects fish and wildlife habitats, and soil erosion is common. In addition, water usage is extreme because each marijuana plant is estimated to require a gallon of water per day – water that is critical to native vegetation, wildlife and public drinking water sources.

Forest visitors are urged to be observant while hiking and camping in secluded areas and to back out and call Forest Service Law Enforcement at (303) 275-5266 if they come across suspicious activities. More detailed information can be obtained from local Forest Service offices.

a pile of pulled marijuana plants laying next to growing marijuana plants in the forest person in jumpsuit and hard hat actively pulling marijuana plants out of the ground
close up of marijuana plant large pile of irrigation pipe pulled from marijuana site ready to be hauled out by helicopter

click on image for larger size



 The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $27 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.