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Raids sweep pot from Mendocino National Forest
Massive police raids targeting marijuana cultivation in the Mendocino National Forest continue nearly round-the-clock and arrest numbers are climbing.
A total of 88 arrests have been made in the nearly two-week-old operation with more than 374,000 plants eradicated and 27 firearms — including many automatic weapons — have been seized, authorities reported Wednesday.
Law enforcement officials are still refusing discuss specifics about the large operation, saying all information would be released at a press conference Friday.
Approximately $1.25 million in marijuana was destroyed Wednesday in Tehama County's mountains alone, said John C. Heil, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.
The ongoing raids have targeted illegal farming operations in the heavily wooded mountainous areas in Colusa, Tehama, Mendocino, Lake and Trinity counties.
The operation is one of the largest eradication efforts in state history, in terms of geography and the number of agents used in the field, according to Michelle Gregory, a spokeswoman for the state justice department.
"Yes, we are getting about the same number of plants in each area, but in terms of time and size and scope, this is one of the biggest," Gregory said.
Officials said the suspected growers fled the area, taking their weapons with them.
Wednesday's raid just west of Pasketa in Tehama County was considered about average in size, authorities said, but was notable because for the first time since the operation kicked off local media was granted limited access to the site.
The campsite was raided about 15 minutes before reporters were given a tour of the sprawling campsite, which included three large separate grow sites on the east side of the mountain range.
Heil described the campsite as typical and said approximately three to five workers had been living and working there for at least two full growing seasons before the early morning raid.
"Some are more spartan, some more elaborate it just depends on a lot of factors such as how long (the site) has been used," Heil said.
The point, Heil said, is to reclaim public lands for the public and to mitigate the massive environmental damage left behind these type of cultivation efforts, many of which are believed to be connected to organized drug cartel in Mexico.
Contact Rob Parsons at 934-6800 or email@example.com.