State wildlife authorities announced on Aug. 5 they seized more than 15,000 marijuana plants that were illegally grown at the Cosumnes River Preserve, south of Elk Grove, last month.
They also uncovered more than 3,000 pounds of processed marijuana and three loaded firearms from the black market operation, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported.
Investigators arrested 11 suspects on charges such as criminal marijuana cultivation, illegal water diversion, and causing environmental damage to public land.
“While black market marijuana grows can be found anywhere, secluded forested environments are a favorite to illegal growers,” said Janice Mackey, a spokesperson for the fish and wildlife department.
She said that such growers steal water from streams, use pesticides that harm local wildlife, and damage previously untouched habitat land.
“Along with this, black market growers are known for poaching wildlife to protect their grow,” Mackey said.
Authorities reported they found evidence of a poached deer at the crime scene.
The marijuana operations were uncovered at the north side of the preserve, which neighbors land owned by The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit that works to conserve habitat land.
Mackey said that thousands of marijuana plants were spread out at the preserve and she noted that many trees were removed to expose the crops to sunlight.
Wildlife officers reportedly watched suspects transport more than 400 pounds of processed marijuana in a U-Haul truck in the preserve.
The California National Guard, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting also assisted wildlife authorities in closing down the marijuana operation. More than 1,900 pounds of trash were also reportedly removed from the scene.
Wildlife authorities encourage readers to report illegal marijuana growing operations as well as water pollution, water diversion, and poaching on public lands by calling (888) 334-2258 or texting “Tip411.”