AP photo caption: In this photo taken Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010, Fresno County Sheriff's Lt. Rick Ko walks through a camp site at an abandoned marijuana growing site in the Sequioa National Forest near Fresno, Calif. With billions of dollars in drug profits on the line, Mexican traffickers are expanding their foothold in the domestic marijuana market taking over vast swaths of public lands.
Drug gangs taking over US public lands, San Francisco Chronicle, March 1, 2010
SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. (AP) — Not far from Yosemite's waterfalls and in the middle of California's redwood forests, Mexican drug gangs are quietly commandeering U.S. public land to grow millions of marijuana plants and using smuggled immigrants to cultivate them.
Pot has been grown on public lands for decades, but Mexican traffickers have taken it to a whole new level: using armed guards and trip wires to safeguard sprawling plots that in some cases contain tens of thousands of plants offering a potential yield of more than 30 tons of pot a year.
"Just like the Mexicans took over the methamphetamine trade, they've gone to mega, monster gardens," said Brent Wood, a supervisor for the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. He said Mexican traffickers have "supersized" the marijuana trade.
Interviews conducted by The Associated Press with law enforcement officials across the country showed that Mexican gangs are largely responsible for a spike in large-scale marijuana farms over the last several years.
Local, state and federal agents found about a million more pot plants each year between 2004 and 2008, and authorities say an estimated 75 percent to 90 percent of the new marijuana farms can be linked to Mexican gangs.
In 2008 alone, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, police across the country confiscated or destroyed 7.6 million plants from about 20,000 outdoor plots. […]
The Sequoia National Forest in central California is covered in a patchwork of pot fields, most of which are hidden along mountain creeks and streams, far from hiking trails. It's the same situation in the nearby Yosemite, Sequoia and Redwood national parks.
Even if they had the manpower to police the vast wilderness, authorities say terrain and weather conditions often keep them from finding the farms, except accidentally.
Many of the plots are encircled with crude explosives and are patrolled by guards armed with AK-47s who survey the perimeter from the ground and from perches high in the trees.
The farms are growing in sophistication and are increasingly cultivated by illegal immigrants, many of whom have been brought to the U.S. from Michoacan.
The trend toward worsening plunder is no surprise, since influential environmental groups (like the corrupt Sierra Club) have been silent on this issue. The Sierra Club touted itself as an "outreach partner" when Ken Burns' PBS doc about the national parks was shown, but doesn't lift a finger to help when Sequoia and Yosemite have been despoiled by Mexican drug gangs for years.
The faux greenies apparently consider it politically dangerous to speak ill of criminal Mexicans, which might displease Hispanic Congressional allies of convenience on environmental matters.
With no politically active supporters, the future of the great parks is doubtful. A popular area in Sequoia was closed to visitors last summer because of a nearby Mexican crime patch, which is an escalation on the part of increasingly bold growers. It would be tragic if no-go zones were to expand to encompass entire national parks (with perhaps the exception of postcard spots like Yosemite Valley), but that possibility is now imaginable because of invading Mexicans and useless elite "environmentalists."