News Stories

A Vacation in Crime, Part II

Margot Roosevelt writes in Time Magazine that marijuana is being secretly grown in national parks all over the U.S. Rangers wearing camouflage and carrying rifles creep around among the campers, trying to bust the park pot growers. Forest Service investigator Laura Mark says, "We're good at jungle warfare. We're the ninjas of the woods."

A U.S. Park Service ranger in Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was gunned down by a Mexican marijuana smuggler last August. In Missouri's Mark Twain National Forest, 192 methane labs have been dismantled over the past three years. Kentucky's Daniel Boone National Forest and Alabama's Talladega National Forest are filled with marijuana farms.

Most of the pot planting is done in California parks. Since 911, it?s getting harder to smuggle pot across the border from Mexico, so drug traffickers have decided to grow it right here in the states. California has a mild climate, rich soil and a lengthy growing season, and can produce 10-foot-high pot plants worth $4,000 each. Some California park pot farms stretch over several hundred acres and have as many as 50,000 plants. Last year 420,000 pot plants with a street value of $1.5 billion were eradicated from the state's 18 federal forests.

"We have a tremendous influx of Mexican growers," says Ross Butler, of the federal Bureau of Land Management. "They are sophisticated. They have guns. And we don't know much about who they are."

Last year tourists kayaking on the Salmon River in the Klamath National Forest were held at gunpoint by drug traffickers. A hiker in the Sequoia National Park and hunters in Mendocino National Forest also had guns drawn on them. Two years ago, an 8-year-old boy hunting deer in the Eldorado National Forest with his father was shot in the face by pot farmers. Drug Enforcement agent Michael Delaney says, "If you are a hunter, a fisherman or a backpacker, it can be dangerous."

Stay in your tent and read a good book.

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