GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – More than 3,000 marijuana plants at an estimated worth of $8.4 million have been removed from an illegal growing site in the White River National Forest, according to U.S. Forest Service.
Chris Strebig with the Forest Service said the plants were discovered by two archery hunters who reported it to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department.
The site with 3,375 plants was located near Redstone. Helicopters helped crews remove the plants from the area.
No arrests have been made and the case is still 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 massive operation had likely been hiding in the forest for several years.
“Even flying right over it our law enforcement officers had a hard time finding it. It was in open stands and aspen groves. It was well concealed,” Fitzwilliams said.
An operation of its size hasn’t been seen in Colorado for a long time, if ever.
“This is pretty rare. We’re at a higher elevation. Most of the forest is above 7,000 feet. Most of the grows we’ve found over the past 10 years have been under 100 plants, so to find something of this size was a bit of a surprise to us,” Fitzwilliams said.
Without any evidence that it was tied to cartels, it’s believed the person who ran the operation has probably made plenty of money and won’t be coming back any time soon.
The White River National Forest is America’s most visited national forest with 9 million visitors each year.
Additional Information From The Forest Service
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.