Illegal grow sites target of Forest Service and sheriff’s department operation

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Marijuana plants are lowered onto the helipad at Lake Hemet Thursday morning during a join eradication effort. Photo by Jay Pentrack

Marijuana plants are lowered onto the helipad at Lake Hemet Thursday morning during a join eradication effort. Photo by Jay Pentrack

The US Forest Service and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department combined efforts today to eradicate several illegal grow sites in the Pyramid Peak, Hell’s Kitchen and Cedar Creek areas.

The staging area was located at Lake Hemet which provided ample room for personnel as well as a landing pad for the helicopter. Personnel were dropped by helicopter into the multiple grow sites for reclamation and eradication according to Greg Meese, Special Agent for the US Forest Service.

“We’re not seeing as many sites this year because of the drought,” said Special Agent Meese.

Last year, the efforts of both agencies resulted in the reclamation and eradication of over 20 illegal grow sites.

Several operations like this are carried out throughout the state annually according to Sgt. Voss of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Sgt. Voss’ team recovered over 220,000 marijuana plants last year alone.

Resource damage is also a problem at the grow sites. “At one grow site [last year] fertilizers smuggled in from Mexico were used,” said Special Agent Meese. The combination of fertilizers and pesticides cause significant damage to the grow site locations.

According to Sgt. Voss the operation will continue throughout the day.

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