Members of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department working with this year’s marijuana eradication effort cleared a total of 34,996 plants from Los Padres National Forest. According to a statement from Sheriff’s spokesperson Sergeant Alex Tipolt, the Drug Enforcement Administration estimates street value of these plants at more than $87 million.
Marijuana eradication is an annual activity for the Sheriff’s Department, in which deputies work with agents of the Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Production (CAMP) in identifying places where large-scale marijuana growing operations are located and then disposing of these illegal plants. This week, approximately 35 law enforcement officers participated in the identification and removal of nine growing operations. Two operations near Juncal Dam yielded 13,501 plants; three found west of Lake Cachuma yielded 18,555 plants; four in the Bear Canyon area yielded 2,940 plants. Tipolt noted that no arrests were made in the effort, though those responsible seemed to be Mexican nationals who lived in or near the operations.
Tipolt concluded his report on the matter saying that such marijuana cultivation is often “the work of dangerous drug cartels” and therefore posed a threat to the safety of visitors to Los Padres, as these pot growers are frequently armed and sometimes even set booby traps designed to injure or kill anyone that might happen to stumble upon the hidden narcotics. Tipolt advised that anyone who sees people traipsing about Los Padres with irrigation tubing or notices usual water flows or new trails leading to locations that would have no apparent attraction to casual hikers should call the Sheriff’s Department.