Pot uprooted near North Fork

-- Madera County Sheriff's OfficeSeptember 20, 2012 

Thousands of marijuana plants have been hauled out of two marijuana grows in the Sierra National Forest.

The remote region is located roughly 11 miles south of Yosemite National park, where narcotic agents eradicated nearly 5,000 plants.

On Sept. 11, agents were conducting an aerial over flight on prior eradicated outdoor growing operations. Agents identified a new cultivation site not far from a grow site eradicated earlier this season. The find led MADNET agents, U.S. Forest Service agents, and Madera County sheriff deputies to the Slide Creek and Soda Springs area above North Fork.

Both areas have long been a favorite target for growing marijuana by drug trafficking organizations. The devastation they cause is a source of frustration for United States Forest Service, whose job it is to return and restore the land.

Plants, many as tall as six-feet tall, were cut down and lifted out of the gardens by a contract helicopter. Due to state cutbacks and the unavailability of regional CAMP teams, agents had to hike into these gardens that were located at an elevation over 5,000 feet. The operation started before dawn Sept. 12. and ended shortly before 8 p.m.

Based on evidence found at the grow sites, Sheriff John Anderson says these gardens were being cultivated by a Mexican drug trafficking organization.

This is the same area that brought Scott Burns, the Bush administration's Deputy Drug Czar, to Madera County in August, 2007.

No arrests were made during this eradication mission, which is part of the multi-county eradication operation of 2012, dubbed "Operation Mercury."

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