LONGMONT, Colo. (AP/CBS4) — Authorities used a National Guard helicopter to help remove a marijuana growing operation from a remote and mountainous area near Longmont.

Boulder County sheriff’s Cmdr. Heidi Prentup says hikers found about 400 plants growing on a hillside in the South St. Vrain Canyon on Aug. 25. She says the grow was established with irrigation pipes and other equipment. The plants were growing on private property without permission.

“Sophisticated enough that any moisture that fell in the area would be captured in multiple dams,” Cmdr. Scot Williams said.

More than 400 plants just weeks from harvesting were removed. The total market value would have been more than $100,000.

Prentup says authorities also found a campsite but have not identified any suspects. She did not immediately know what charges they could face if they are caught. Authorities believe there were at least 20 people involved.

“I’d say these were experienced people that knew what they were doing,” Williams said. “We think it’s some kind of drug trafficking organization. We don’t know it’s out of Mexico but we don’t believe it’s a local organization.”

Bags of marijuana being removed on Tuesday (credit: CBS)

Bags of marijuana being removed on Tuesday (credit: CBS)

Officers and firefighters enlisted the help of a Black Hawk helicopter on Tuesday because the area is so remote.

Three years ago a much larger marijuana grow operation was discovered in the same area. Authorities believe it’s possible the two are related and from now on they will routinely check the area.

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