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Illegal marijuana grow trashes wildlife preserve

Illegal marijuana grow trashes wildlife preserve

California Department of Fish and Wildlife also found meth, firearms, weed killer near Atwell Island native grasslands, wetland

@TheSunGazette

TULARE COUNTY – Some people get a high from experiencing pristine nature. Unfortunately, criminals get a high from illegal marijuana grows that trash some of Tulare County’s most precious preserves.

On June 21, wildlife officers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) served a search warrant on an illegal marijuana grow in Tulare County. The parcel was located south of the city of Alpaugh  in close proximity to the Atwell Island Recreational area which consists of 8,000 acres of restored native grassland, wetland and alkali sink habitats. It is an important habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds and is one of the few remaining wetlands in the area.

“Tulare county is home to over 20 listed state species and 10 listed federal species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “It is a thoughtless act to leave trash and harmful chemicals near protected habitats that threatened and endangered wildlife call home.”

On site, officers located numerous fertilizer and pesticide containers, including a 55-gallon drum of Roundup. The suspects had constructed a large lined water pit where they premixed chemicals to water the plants. This unsecured set up was particularly alarming because the neighboring bird population could inadvertently be exposed to these harmful chemicals. The property was also littered with trash and had a huge open trash pit.

Officers removed 1,581 of illegal marijuana plants and approximately 1,000 lbs. of processed marijuana. CDFW seized three firearms, one being an AK-47, $8,980 in cash and 18.5 grams of methamphetamine. CDFW took all eight suspects into custody who were all charged with seven different violations including three felonies.

While officers were driving up the road to serve the warrant, they observed another illegal cultivation site in plain view with two subjects actively working in a 500-plant grow. Those two individuals were also taken into custody and booked into jail on felony charges.

Clean-up of the property will also be requested to help restore the surrounding wildlife habitat and ecology.

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