Authorities: Illegal marijuana grow worth more than $7 million discovered on Pueblo County forest land

PUEBLO, Colo. — More than 7,400 marijuana plants in an illegal grow worth more than $7 million were discovered Friday in two separate fields on U.S. Forest Service land near Rye.

The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office says this illegal grow is the second largest operation uncovered in Pueblo County to date, and the fifth grow found in fields on or near the San Isabel National Forest in the last five years.

According to authorities, a hiker reported the grow after discovering it on Forest Service land near the Huckleberry Hills area.  Additionally, the hiker also reported seeing several people “engaged in suspicious activity” in the grow areas.

On Friday detectives checked the site and discovered thousands of marijuana plants growing in both an upper and lower field. At the scene, authorities found two people wearing camouflage clothing who they believe were caring for the plants.

Police say the two suspects fled before more help arrived to set up a perimeter around the grow site.

According to detectives, 2,005 plants were found in the upper field, and another 5,401 in the lower field.

They say the estimated street value of the plants is more than $7 million.

Additionally, detectives also found evidence that the people tending to the marijuana grow were also living on the property. Officers found cook stoves, food containers, blankets and other items near the grow sites.

Authorities say samples of the plants were taken and all have been eradicated from the fields.

Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor says these marijuana grows in the mountains are not only illegal but detrimental to the forest.

“These grows are not indigenous to Colorado and the water and fertilizers required for these grow operations represent a clear environmental hazard for our beautiful Colorado mountains,” Taylor said. “We certainly appreciate and encourage anyone who is out enjoying our mountains and sees something that they think is suspicious, to report it to the Sheriff’s Office.”

This is the fifth illegal grow found in or near the San Isabel National Forest (SINF) since 2012.

In August 2012, the Sheriff’s Office found and dismantled two marijuana grows in the SINF consisting of more than 9,400 plants.

In October 2015, another grow consisting of 2,400 plants were found near Millset Trail and in July 2016, 1,000 plants were fond growing on private property near the Table Top Mountain area.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the last four grows are believed to be connected to a Mexican cartel. Authorities are still investigating whether the most recent grow is connected to any of the past ones in the same area.

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