MOUNT SHASTA, Siskiyou County (KPIX 5) — It’s happening in the shadow of Mount Shasta — hundreds of marijuana gardens pockmarking the landscape in neighborhoods that have little in the way of housing.

For law enforcement officials in Siskiyou County, it’s a state of emergency.

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“This is a monumental effort but, then again, we’ve got a monumental problem,” says Sheriff Jon E. Lopey.

What’s unfolding in this county is a race between growers and the law to see who can get to the countless grow gardens first.

“We’re in harvest season. We’re really putting a lot of resources into it and a lot of personnel, trying to take out as much as we can before it gets harvested and goes off back east or wherever it’s going,” said Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Gilley.

You can see the enormous extent of the grow gardens from space. Fire up Google Earth and you can count grow after grow dotting the high desert landscape like an outbreak of measles.

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“I have a one-mile-square photograph and you can pick out 80 gardens in that one square mile,” said Sgt. Gilley.

All of this is happening in a county that is decidedly not part of the “Emerald Triangle.” In fact, elected officials and voters have passed laws aimed at keeping marijuana out of Siskiyou County.

“Our county does not allow outdoor cultivation of cannabis,” asserts Sheriff Lopey.

Siskiyou County has some of the cheapest — as well as most scenic — land you can find in California. You can purchase nearly three acres for about $16,000. That brings in people who see an opportunity. The sheriff thinks those people represent a nationwide problem.

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“I think … that this is an organized-crime effort. (They) basically take over large geographic areas to grow illegal marijuana. That’s basically what it amounts to,” Lopey said.