National Drug Intelligence Center
Outdoor cannabis cultivation on public lands, particularly by Mexican criminal groups, is occurring at high levels and eradication on these lands is increasing. Cannabis cultivation on U.S. public lands is occurring at high levels, according to law enforcement reporting and recent eradication data. These lands are often used for cannabis cultivation operations, primarily by Mexican DTOs and criminal groups. These groups benefit from the remote locations that enable cultivators to operate large-scale cannabis cultivation operations by limiting the chance of detection, and to maintain these activities without ownership of any land that could be seized by law enforcement or traced back to a participating member. Data from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and the Department of the Interior (DOI) indicate that a combined total of 4,043,231 plants were eradicated from these lands in 2008. Furthermore, eradication data reveal an increasing trend in eradication efforts on these lands; eradication totals reported by each public lands agency show that the number of plants eradicated increased each year between 2004 and 2008. According to the USDA Forest Service, the number of plants eradicated from national forests more than quadrupled between 2004 (718,447 plants) and 2008 (3,079,923 plants). (See Figure 12.) DOI data show a similar trend; the number of plants eradicated from DOI lands increased overall from just 294,641 plants in 2004 to 963,308 plants in 2008. (See Figure 12.) Although the number of plants eradicated from DOI lands increased overall during this time period, some areas--like the Whiskeytown Recreational Area in Northern California--reported decreases in eradication during 2008 due to significant weather and fire events.
Figure 12. Number of Plants Eradicated From Federal Lands, 2004-2008*
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service; U.S. Department
of the Interior.
*USFS data as of February 12, 2009. DOI data as of January 21, 2009.
Cannabis cultivation operations and eradication efforts in national forests appear to be higher in California than in any other state. U.S. public lands in California continue to yield the highest number of eradicated plants of all public lands in the United States. According to data from the USDA Forest Service, the number of plants eradicated from national forests in Region 5--which encompasses only California--yielded an average of 83 percent of all plants eradicated from all U.S. national forests between 2004 and 2008 (see Table 4). Furthermore, cannabis eradication in California national forests is increasing; the number of plants eradicated from national forests in California increased each year between 2004 and 2008, rising from 591,824 plants to 2,456,235 plants, respectively (see Figure 13 and Table 4).
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
*Data as of February 12, 2009.
Figure 13. Number of Cannabis Plants Eradicated, by National Forest, 2008
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service; Law Enforcement and Investigations Management Attainment Reporting System reporting as of February 12, 2009. Regional boundaries defined by Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigation.
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Hispanic Cannabis Growers Hold Three Bureau of Land Management Employees at Gunpoint
On October 7, 2008, three Bureau of Land Management (BLM) biologists were held at gunpoint by three members of a Hispanic criminal group who were operating a large-scale cultivation site on nearby BLM lands in northern Nevada. This was the third such incident regarding Hispanic-operated cannabis cultivation operations on BLM lands in Nevada in 2008. The three BLM biologists were conducting a stream study when they came upon a cannabis grow site and were immediately held at gunpoint by the three growers. All three biologists were released and were rescued by a BLM search party later the same day. The following day, law enforcement officers from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, Nevada Department of Public Safety, BLM Office of Law Enforcement Security, and Winnemucca Police Department, with the assistance of National Guard, secured the abandoned site. Law enforcement officers believe that five or six Hispanic growers lived onsite and were responsible for tending to nearly 800 mature plants and producing 150 pounds of processed buds.
Source: Bureau of Land Management.
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