SACRAMENTO, July 29, 2011 - Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske and United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today the beginning of Operation Full Court Press, a large-scale marijuana enforcement operation in the Eastern and Northern Districts of California. Federal, state and local law enforcement are conducting the ongoing operation in the Mendocino National Forest which is located in portions of Tehama, Trinity, Glenn and Colusa Counties, in the Eastern District, and in Mendocino and Lake Counties in the Northern District. Thus far, more than 450,000 marijuana plants in the Mendocino National Forest have been eradicated, numerous individuals have been arrested, and 15 criminal defendants have been charged to date in federal district court in Sacramento. Three defendants have been charged in two separate cases with the illegal possession of firearms, and several defendants have been charged with immigration crimes. Some of the persons arrested are believed to be affiliated with drug trafficking organizations and will likely be charged with felony offenses relating to the cultivation and trafficking of marijuana. Additional defendants are being prosecuted by the District Attorneys of Tehama, Glenn, Colusa, and Trinity Counties. In addition to the marijuana plants eradicated, law enforcement officers found 1,509 pounds of processed marijuana and numerous firearms and vehicles.
Operation Full Court Press is the result of an extensive coordinated investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Sheriff's Offices of Trinity, Tehama, Glenn, and Colusa Counties, the California National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE), and California Department of Fish and Game. Assistance was also provided by the District Attorneys' Offices of Trinity, Tehama, Glenn, and Colusa Counties, and the U.S. Attorneys Offices for the Eastern and Northern Districts of California.
United States Attorney Wagner stated, "The cultivation of marijuana on public lands has continued to proliferate exponentially in Northern California. Seventy percent of marijuana eradicated in California is on public lands. Last year, a similar joint-agency effort in Fresno County eradicated marijuana valued at more than $1.95 billion. Operation Full Court Press is projected to destroy quantities of marijuana in substantial excess of that amount. The dangers and hazards associated with the cultivation of marijuana on public lands continue to pose a major problem for the public. Marijuana growers clear large expanses of land, divert natural water sources, harvest super-sized marijuana crops, and pollute forests and streams with pesticides and fertilizers. In addition, the growers often arm themselves with dangerous weapons, posing a danger not only to law enforcement but to anyone who uses federal and state lands. The hundreds of agents and officers who participated in Operation Full Court Press are to be commended for significantly disrupting the illegal cultivation of marijuana in our public parks and forests."
To date, the Operation has resulted in the removal of 2,171 pounds of toxic fertilizers, 46,314 pounds of trash, and 116,260 feet of irrigation lines from the marijuana grow locations. These foreign materials contaminate California's watersheds and destroy wildlife. Eradication and reclamation teams strive to remove irrigation lines, contaminants, and trash from the land, streams, and rivers. Removing this material will help restore the land to its natural state and will eliminate the infrastructure needed for such cultivation. This is imperative to deter drug trafficking organizations from re-establishing their operations. The removal of nonnative material is the first stage of the restoration process and can cost up to $11,000 per acre.
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