Forest users urged to look for illegal activity

By Kelly Ducote / The Observer June 05, 2013 11:08 am
The Union/Wallowa County Drug Task Force is advising people who may visit recreation areas in the mountains to be aware of potential marijuana grows in forests.

Sgt. Bill Miller said that historically, grow sites have been found in Union and Wallowa counties. In fact, one of the largest grow sites in the state was found here, he said.

“The drug task force is most interested in safety and apprehending anyone who’s out in the forest causing damage and actively involved in illegal activity such as illicit marijuana grows,” Miller said.

The drug task force advises that people look out for irrigation pipping in remote areas, rudimentary or primitive camping sites, terraced planting and sections of cleared forest. If people come across potentially illegal activity, they are advised to leave the area without disturbing any items and to contact the Union/Wallowa County Drug Task Force or another law enforcement agency immediately.

“Due to the heavily wooded and remote locations of these types of illegal operations in our forests, we ask the forest users to be aware of the dangers associated with such illegal activities,” a press release from the task force reads.

“Our primary interest is public safety and awareness,” Miller said.

In June 2011, the drug task force, along with Oregon State Police SWAT Team and Oregon Army National Guard, served a search warrant on U.S. Forest Service public lands in a remote section of northern Wallowa County. 

When officers raided the site, six suspects were taken into custody from what was believed to be at the time, the largest outdoor marijuana grow in Oregon. 

Police said at the time, the outdoor grow was “staggering,” encompassing a stretch more than one mile in a ravine where growers disrupted the natural terrain with extensive terracing. More than 91,000 plants ranging in size from starter plants to 10 inches were eradicated over a two-day period. The plants were concealed in several separate pods developed by removing trees and underbrush to camouflage the grow site, and “miles” of plastic irrigation tubing was also found.

Investigators found campsites and numerous weapons, including semi-automatic long-barrel firearms and handguns. Food, water and other supplies were found at campsites that could sustain the growers for several weeks. 

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