Sheriffs Office removed 101,752 illegal marijuana plants in Los Padres National Forest.

Sheriffs Office removed 101,752 illegal marijuana plants in Los Padres National Forest. (Courtesy photo)

For some 25 years, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office has received  federal grant funding through the Domestic Cannabis Eradication Suppression Program, administered by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Purpose of the grant is to provide financial assistance to local law enforcement agencies to help eradicate illegal marijuana cultivation sites.

Now that the federal fiscal year funding has concluded, the Sheriff’s Office is releasing the results of the eradication efforts conducted utilizing the grant funding.

The Sheriff’s Office eradicated a total of nine different marijuana fields in Los Padres National Forest, including a total plant count of 101,752 marijuana plants. All the plants were destroyed.

The fields covered a number acres off the Sierra Madre Road area of the national forest.

During the eradication efforts, detectives from the Special Investigations Bureau discovered numerous camps where the suspects lived while tending the plants.

Within the camps, detectives discovered thousands of pounds of trash, human waste, toxic chemicals, camping equipment, and food. A total of 10 weapons were also found, including one .22 caliber rifle and nine high-powered pellet rifles.

No suspects were found, and it is assumed that, based on the rugged area where the fields were located, the suspects fled when they heard detectives entering the area.

Based on the type of operations taking place and the items found, it is believed the grows were organized and operated by suspects associated with drug cartels out of Mexico.

In an effort to protect local communities and the environment, the Sheriff’s Office will continue to search and eradicate illegal marijuana cultivation sites on public lands within the county.

Suspects who cultivate marijuana on public lands cause significant environmental damage to the land including disturbing natural stream beds, killing indigenous plant species and animals, and destabilizing of soil causing erosion.

Individuals engaged in the unlawful cultivation of marijuana are also known to use banned chemical pesticides and herbicides, and cause fire hazards, and there can be violence  associated with the sites.

The Sheriff’s Office was assisted by members of California’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, a statewide team comprised of U.S. Forest Service, California National Guard, and State Fish and Wildlife personnel.

— Kelly Hoover for Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.