A Marijuana Extraction Team removed a grove of marijuana from U.S. Forest Service lands north of Lake Fulmor last Thursday morning. Here, plants are flown out of the area by helicopter into a waiting truck at the Lake Fulmor parking lot that also served as a landing pad. Photo by Becky Clark

Thursday morning, Aug. 30, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Marijuana Extraction Team removed a grove of marijuana from U.S. Forest Service lands north of Lake Fulmor.

Starting early in the morning, the team, whose members are from the Sheriff’s Department, the U.S. Forest Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the California National Guard, removed nearly 3,700 plants. The effort took nearly six hours to complete. The estimated street value was $3 million.

The team did not make any arrests, but four to five sleeping bags or cots were found at the encampment, according to Zach Behrens, the media officer for the San Bernardino National Forest.

This type of illegal use can cause ecological damage. At this encampment, law enforcement did discover carbofuran, a highly toxic pesticide that has detrimental effects on wildlife and humans.

“This year’s unprecedented use of illegal pesticides on federal lands is deeply alarming to the scientific community on both the environmental and human health fronts,” said Mourad Gabriel, director of the Integral Ecology Research Center in Blue Lake.

The grove was identified earlier this summer using air reconnaissance.

While this extraction was under the sheriff’s team, earlier last week, federal and state officials reported on Operation Forest Watch, which has been conducted in Northern California, including Fresno, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tulare and other counties.

They have arrested more than 77 individuals, removed nearly 640,000 plants, and 25,000 pounds of processed marijuana.

“Marijuana growers endanger our visitors, employees and nearby communities. The Forest Service is committed in this joint effort to eradicate, reclaim and rehabilitate our public lands to preserve our natural resources for current and future generations to enjoy.”