UKIAH (CBS / AP) — Law enforcement officials said Friday they struck a major blow against illegal marijuana cultivation on public lands in the heart of Northern California pot country.

The two-week operation to purge the Mendocino National Forest of illicit pot gardens uprooted 460,000 pot plants and led to more than 100 arrests, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said.

About 1,500 pounds of processed marijuana, 27 guns and 11 vehicles were also seized.

The 900,000-acre forest—larger than Rhode Island—spans six counties in a region of mountains and forests known as the Emerald Triangle for its high concentration of pot farms. Agents raided more than 50 gardens teeming with trash, irrigation pipes and chemicals that damage forestland and waterways, authorities said.

“The Mendocino National Forest is under attack by drug traffickers,” Haag said.

The operation was part of an annual summer effort to eradicate marijuana from public lands across the state. Six sheriff’s departments, the state anti-narcotics bureau and at least a half-dozen federal agencies took part in the effort in the forest.

Spearheading the raids was Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman, who in his years on the job has had to balance county medical marijuana ordinances with state law and the complete federal ban on the drug. Allman said none of the gardens busted showed any sign of being used to grow medical marijuana.

Each summer for the past several years, authorities report seizing millions of pot plants from local, state and national parks, forests and other wilderness areas. Public lands are often favored by clandestine growers for their remote locations and rugged terrain.

In previous years, officials have blamed Mexican drug cartels for some of the state’s largest growing operations. Haag declined Friday to comment on where those arrested in the current operation were from but said 25 are already facing federal charges.

The decision to focus on Mendocino National Forest this year stemmed from citizen complaints a year ago about an increasing number of confrontations with armed guards protecting pot grows, Allman said.

Forest Service officials and county leaders have also long complained about the environmental consequences of illegal marijuana farms on forest ecology.

California National Guard troops, Forest Service workers and volunteers have removed 46,000 pounds of trash, 120 propane tanks, 116,000 feet of pipe, 13 manmade dams, 57 pounds of pesticide and tons of fertilizer from raided grow sites in the forest, Haag said.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (9)
  1. ,Sigmund says:

    Looks like we need some of the snipers from Afganistan to clean up the forest. Kill enough of the growers, let them rot and let the wildlife eat them, maybe, just MAYBE the growers will get the message and leave our forests alone.

  2. Progressive says:

    Legalize and regulate Marijuana. Problem solved.

    1. mike says:

      wrong! if you actually gave that some real thought you would figure out that legalization will change nothing….unless you can find a way to explain how regulated (taxed) legal weed would be cheaper than the illegal weed which will always be cheaper…hence, in demend

      1. Progressive says:

        I lol’ed at that comment. Do you know how overpriced “street weed” is nowadays? $35-$45 for an eighth of an oz. Put into perspective, it only takes an average of $45 dollars (less if you grow outdoors with natural sunlight) to produce a POUND of marijuana. Obviously the profits greatly outweigh the costs. I highly doubt current illegal growers would try to out-compete subsidized/taxed marijuana which would be a fraction of the cost it is today. Another factor you fail to take into account is the social implications of the legalization of marijuana. Would you, as a marijuana buyer, go to a LEGITIMATE business that sells marijuana or would you rather get your goods off some thug on the streets? The market for illegal marijuana will be crippled. Do some research buddy.

      2. Sam Mallory says:

        Actually progressive your stats are wrong and $45 will not get you 1 pound. Please if you believe in your stats so much then hit me up on facebook and lets see you eat your words and vend your flowers for around $500 a pound….I mean since its only costing you $45 you should have no problem.

  3. nicole says:

    Once we have “Legalization”, people will either grow their own or pot will be grown in controlled commercial greenhouses.

    Legalization will drop the market price for marijuana down to about 100 dollars per ounce (50 dollar tax per ounce). With the current street price of around 250 to 300 dollars per ounce, this will break the black market.

    Since most people buy medical marijuana here in California 1/8th of an ounce at a time, I would estimate that a regular user on average probably consumes about 1/2 ounce per month.

    It is a shame that our forests are being destroyed by criminals. We have an easy fix, so let’s just DO IT>

  4. Machavelli says:

    i think un-professional growers are endangering our society. people have to hike in fear that some armed guards might shoot them for crossing their territory. whilst people have to live in fear that their neighbors might be running an indoor grow-op. Its like a ticking bomb, u never know when its going to explode or burst out into flame!
    same as meth labs.. etc

    there are reasons why pot is illegal in 90% of all countries in the world 🙂

  5. Dwayne L Foster says:

    November 12, 2011 ‘Contact Us’ as a courtesy, needs to be at the bottom of the home page.
    All I’m trying to find, which I have been unsuccessful at … is the KCBS article that essentially states that nearly all of the illegal immigrants that are crossing the border from Mexico into California are going directly to the Emerald Triangle. Where the immigrants are working bankrupt California’s number one cash crop for the Mexican cartels. Please can a KCBS representative please write back with that specific article’s url or copy/pasted in your cordial response? Thank you, Dwayne Foster *Please also read and tell others!

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