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Pot Farm Busted in Topanga State Park
September 19, 2013 - By Annemarie Donkin
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ROSI DAGIT
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s helicopter hovers over a pot farm in Topanga State
Park on August 9.
After discovering a huge growth of marijuana while on patrol, California State Parks Rangers raided an illegal pot farm in Topanga State Park on August 9.
Members of the Angeles District Marijuana Eradication Team (MET) led the raid. They worked in assistance with officers from the National Park Service, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department.
A multi-agency operation by 16 peace officers removed nearly 5,000 pounds of mature marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $2.5 million, said Craig Sap, District Supervisor, Angeles District. No suspects were found.
According to authorities, the State Parks Angeles District MET has eradicated a total of 26 illegal Mexican drug cartel marijuana growing operations since the team was assembled in 2005.
There was evidence to show several suspects occupied the grow site but no arrests were made. The investigation is ongoing.
The pot farm was divided into seven separate plots, each hidden in the chaparral forest and the damage to the ecosystem was significant, State Parks said in a statement.
While they may have apprehended no suspects, with the aid of a Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department helicopter, the officers removed 500 pounds of trash, irrigation lines, cans of pesticides and camping gear from the pot growing area.
According to the officers, damage to the local ecosystem, including diverting water with irrigation lines from the stream, was considerable. Illegal growers install drip lines for water and use large amounts of pesticides to keep animals from eating their crops.
According to the MET team, this is only the tip of the iceberg for illegal pot grows throughout the Malibu hills and the Santa Monica Mountains, which now represents a significant public safety hazard due to possibly armed growers defending their crops. On that point, many feel there is a growing danger from illegal pot growers to the public, Park Rangers and biologists doing field studies.
We began our surveys monthly in 2001, and over the years have come across many crazy things happening in the creeknaked men building fires, people washing clothes, weird shrines with loose chickensbut when we see irrigation pipes, new trails up steep drainages, or any other signs of illegal activity, it definitely gives us pause and we document and move on quickly, said Rosi Dagit, Senior Conservation Biologist, RCD of the Santa Monica Mountains.
The State Park Rangers have been really responsive whenever we have called with a concern. Each morning before we start work in the creek, we touch base with State Parks dispatch to make sure the rangers know we are working, and that is how we got a heads- up about the activity on August 9; while we have been fortunate to not have experienced any problems directly, it is definitely a concern.
Authorities urge the public to call 911 if they see any suspicious activity.