CAMP Eradicates 14,000 Plants

CAMP/Sheriffs Eradicate 14,000 Plants
in Hoopa/Weitchpec/Orleans Areas

All Believed to Be Commercial Grows

By Shelly Baldy, TRT Staff Reporter

It’s that time of year again…

If there’s one thing Humboldt County is known for, it is marijuana. Cultivation of the popular illegal drug has plagued the county for decades, with each community being affected by its presence.

This year, north eastern Humboldt County, the Klamath-Trinity area specifically, was the target of the first major outdoor eradication of the marijuana season. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department (HCSD) issued a news release last week concluding their first week of operation, which netted approximately 28,400 marijuana plants in the Hoopa, Weitchpec, Orleans, and southern Humboldt areas.

The teams included personnel from the HCSD, CAMP, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Drug Task Force. They began the busy week on the Hoopa Indian Reservation where they eradicated approximately 13,000 plants from the reservation and a timber company property near Weitchpec.

HCSD Sgt. Wayne Hanson said there were four separate gardens located on the reservation, the biggest netting approximately 5,000 plants. Because of the remote location of all four gardens, officers were dropped into the location from helicopters using a 100 ft. rope and harness system in order to eradicate the plants.

The plants were cut, stored in a large net, and transported to a landing zone where they are disposed of. At one of the sites, Hanson said while an officer was being lowered into the garden, he spotted four Hispanic males disperse into the wilderness. They were never found.

Hanson suspects that all four of the gardens located on the reservation were organized by members of the Mexican Drug Cartel. Not only did officers witness Hispanic males leaving one of the gardens, they also found food items that implicated the persons living at the site were Hispanic.

“These aren’t your normal mom and pop grows. They are large commercial gardens…we are trying to make it safer for timber workers and fishery biologists who travel in these remote locations,” said Hanson.

All of the gardens appeared to have been lived in and were located approximately five air miles apart.

The following day the team moved to another location, near Slate Creek in Orleans, which had already been identified. Approximately 1,000 plants were eradicated at that location.

Unlike a majority of the live-in grows found in the county, Hanson said the Slate Creek operation appeared to be conducted by Asians. They also found similar signs of an Asian growing operation on Waterman Ridge last year.

On Wednesday, the team moved south and eradicated 8,200 plants from the California State Parks land and timber company property near Pepperwood. The team finished up the week near Blocksburg after eradicating another 6,200 plants.

CAMP will continue operations throughout October of this year

Last year, CAMP/HCSD eradicated another large-scale grow near the Mill Creek Drainage just off the Hoopa reservation boundary, and the year prior, they also destroyed more than 30,000 plants at two separate locations on the reservation, all of which were suspected commercial grows.

With the number of large-scale grows increasing each year all over the county, with a majority being located in the southern communities and now the north eastern portion, Hanson said they do not have the time or the money to target local gardens, what he refers to as ‘mom and pop,’ operations.

Hanson said every year they come across hundreds of small local grows, most of which are located in local residential backyards or near homes. For the most part, Hanson said those operations are often overlooked.

Depending on the size of the gardens, Hanson said they will notify the proper law enforcement agency, but ultimately the responsibility falls on them.

Newly-elected Hoopa Tribal Chairman, Leonard ‘Elrod’ Masten, announced his plan to establish a drug task force agency on the reservation last month.

On Friday, Masten said he is scheduled to meet with Humboldt County Sheriff, Gary Philps, and plans to address the issue of marijuana cultivation. He said he believes the Tribe also needs to develop a plan that specifically deals with marijuana cultivation on the reservation.

“There is nothing in place right now,” he said.

Masten said the plan would not only address commercial marijuana operations, but also target local residents who are convicted of cultivation or sales. He also plans to address the issue with the Hoopa Tribal Police Department as well.

“I want it (marijuana) out. They can make all the excuses they want, but it’s their (HTPD) job,” he said.

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