Officers find 6,400 illegal marijuana plants in southern Colorado forest

Law enforcement officers dismantled three illegal marijuana grows in the San Isabel National Forest earlier this week. / Pueblo County Sheriff's Office
Law enforcement officers dismantled three illegal marijuana grows in the San Isabel National Forest earlier this week. / Pueblo County Sheriff's Office

PUEBLO, Colo. — A tip from an off-duty officer hiking in a Colorado forest led investigators to three illegal marijuana grows containing a total of 6,400 plants.

The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office said the investigation began October 18. An off-duty federal law enforcement officer was hiking on the Millset Trail in the San Isabel National Forest above Rye when he came across six men sitting about 100 yards from the parking area, off the trail. The men were all wearing camouflage. One spoke to the officer in broken English, asking if he was hunting. The officer, who has experience investigating illegal marijuana cultivation, became suspicious, because the men did not appear to be equipped for hunting.

The officer knew that an illegal marijuana grow had been found in the area three years ago, so he told the Pueblo County Sheriff about his suspicions.

Then, Friday, law enforcement from the U.S. Forest Service, DEA, BLM, and Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office conducted an operation in the forest. The Air National Guard also helped, and provided a Black Hawk helicopter to fly over the area.

Officers in the helicopter spotted three separate marijuana grow sites on steep mountain terrain above the Millset Trail.

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Click for more photos of the marijuana grows.

The grows were all located on federal land. With the cooperation of local landowners, officers gained access to the grows and destroyed about 2,400 marijuana plants. Some of the grow sites had been harvested, but the stalks of the plants remained. Officers counted a total of 6,400 marijuana plants over the three grows.

Officers also found three makeshift lean-tos and a sophisticated watering system connecting drip lines to every plant. Officers determined the grows had been in place for at least two seasons.

No suspects have been identified in connection with the grows. Deputies said no one was at the site when they arrived. They said it didn’t look like the suspects intended to return for the remaining plants.

Deputies estimated the street value of the marijuana at $64,000.

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