Marijuana destroyed from Wisconsin national forest

CREATED Aug. 11, 2011

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  • A marijuana plant. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Authorities say they discovered and destroyed a large-scale marijuana growing operation in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin.

One man was arrested at the scene of the grow site, U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil said, and four more were being sought. Vaudreuil said the site had thousands of plants over an area of several acres about 25 miles northwest of Park Falls, Wis., and included a camp for people who cultivated the marijuana as well as loaded firearms.

"Unfortunately, there are criminals who take advantage of the remote and heavily-wooded nature of our national forests to cultivate marijuana on a large-scale basis," Vaudreuil said.

Authorities said they were alerted to the operation after a tip from a hunter in November.

"This is the one we've been really focused on and working on," Vaudreuil told The Associated Press. "We had a grow operation that we took down almost the exact same time last year that looked the same. ... It's very similar. It's multiple plots. It's in thick woods. There's a camp that has a place to cook, live. There were loaded guns at the camp, which also is fairly typical."

Authorities did not identify the man in custody because he has not yet been charged. Vaudreuil said he did not have a total count of plants destroyed available yet, but "it'll be a chunk."

Last year, federal, state and local authorities raided a dozen grow sites they believe were connected to a ring of marijuana farmers using the sprawling, 1.5-million acre forest as its base.

The operations of those farms were similar in style to those used by Mexican drug cartels, which have turned to growing marijuana in the United States in recent years, eliminating the risk of smuggling the drug across the border.

"They're not building big structures. They don't want to be seen from the air. You want them hidden. You don't want somebody stumbling onto them," Vaudreuil said. "It's a go-to-ground existence where you can cook and live very quietly."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)