Friday, 17 May 2024

National Forest officers receive marijuana eradication award

UPPER LAKE – Following last year's record number of illegal marijuana seizures in the Mendocino National Forest, several members of the forest's law enforcement team were honored this month with a national award.

On March 14 the Mendocino National Forest Law Enforcement team received a national Director's award from the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy for their outstanding service to the nation in combating marijuana trafficking on the national forest last year.

Officers Walt Bliss, Mike Casey, Matt Knudson and Ramon Polo received the award from Director John P. Walters in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Forest spokesperson Phebe Brown said Polo is based in Covelo, Knudson in Upper Lake, Bliss in Paskenta and Casey in Willows, but all of them travel all over the forest as part of their enforcement duties.

Last year, the team spent more than 300 days eradicating 405,399 marijuana plants from 55 illegal marijuana sites on the Mendocino National Forest. “We were No. 1 in the state,” said Brown.

In fact, Walters' citation to the officers reads, in part: "More marijuana was taken by this team than any other group within the Forest Service in 2006.”

Illegal marijuana eradication was a major issue for Lake County in 2006.

Last fall, when then-Attorney General Bill Lockyer announced the results of the state Department of Justice’s 2006 Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), Lake County led the state's 58 counties with the most plants seized – 314,603, almost 100,000 more than the second-ranked county, Shasta.

Statewide, Lockyer reported, CAMP set a new record with the seizure of 1,675,681 plants worth an estimated $6.7 billion during the eradication season – more than three times the number of plants seized in 2005.

Sheriff Rod Mitchell said the illegal marijuana growers are attracted to the Mendocino National Forest – not necessarily Lake County itself – as a location.

The forest's fertile soils and remote locations are a haven for illicit marijuana growing, he explained.

“This is an area that is deeply troubling to me and my staff who work in the area of eradicating marijuana,” he said.

That's because it involves trespassing on both private and public lands, said Mitchell.

Worse, threats are posed to humans who happen across the illegal grows, he said, and the growers show wanton disrespect for the environment.

“This is a huge area of concern and should be even for people who are pro-dope,” he said.

The Mendocino National Forest's officers expressed their thanks to agencies like Mitchell's for help in the marijuana eradication effort.

"We could not have been successful without the teamwork with the Sheriff's Departments of Glenn, Colusa, Tehama, Lake and Mendocino Counties, the California National Guard, and Department of Justice CAMP teams," Casey said. "We all worked together to locate and remove this illegal use of our public land."

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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