One day after eight men were charged in federal court with a massive marijuana growing operation at several sites in Wisconsin’s. Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, authorities noted that in the last two weeks at least three shootouts have erupted between marijuana growers and law enforcement officers in the U.S. and two growers were shot to death by officers in California forests, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “These can be very dangerous situations,” said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. “There’s a lot of money on the line here.”
Last year 2.5 million illegal marijuana plants were discovered in the national forest system and destroyed. The value of marijuana plants discovered so far in national forests is estimated between $2,500 and $6,000 each. While it’s not unusual to discover illegal marijuana growing operations on public lands, the size and nature of the operations are changing dramatically. Rather than simply planting a few plants and coming back months later to harvest, a growing number of people are using sophisticated horticulture methods to ensure a bountiful and healthy crop. “They’re all over the national forests,” said a U.S. Forest Service agent. “What’s changing is the business model. There appears to be more organization.” Indeed, the men charged this week are accused of setting up camps near the marijuana plantations complete with sleeping bags, tents, and propane stoves as well as fertilizer and industrial backpack sprayers, using a house as a processing center, and renting a storage unit where they kept more than $6,000 in cash and 72 pounds of processed marijuana.