BOISE -- Federal, county and local law enforcement officers are hard at work removing a major marijuana operation on public land south of Stanley, Idaho. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson says the grow includes more than 11,100 plants near Galena Summit in the Sawtooth National Forest in Blaine County.
However, Olson said what authorities didn't find was just who was responsible for growing the marijuana, and no arrests have been made.
Olson said around 60 law enforcement officers began removing the illegal plants on Thursday, along with related growing materials and camping gear.
Law enforcement officers from the Blaine, Gooding and Camas County Sheriff's Offices, Sun Valley and Ketchum police departments, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Drug Enforcement Administration are participating in the effort.
"Idaho public lands are off limits to drug traffickers," Olson said. "We are committed to finding these grows, and removing the plants, and therefore removing the profit for the drug traffickers and restoring the land to its natural beauty."
SHOTS FIRED NEAR THE POT GROW
According to Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsay, authorities found the grow about two weeks ago after a bowhunter scouting the area with his son reported the pot. Ramsay says that's when law enforcement agents began searching for suspects and conducting surveillance in the area.
Sheriff Ramsay said another hiker stumbled upon the area on Wednesday, and while that hiker was walking away he heard gunshots being fired behind him.
"He realized he was in the middle of a grow," Ramsay said, noting that the man backed-up and quickly retreated before shots were fired.
While not common in Idaho, federal agents say shootouts between pot growers and those unfortunate enough to stumble upon their grows often happen in other states.
WHO WAS GROWING THE POT?
Olson said authorities don't have any leads on who might have been cultivating the plants. However, she said the growing area wasn't a new one.
"This was obviously not the first grow season based on the things they're finding," Olson said.
Olson went on to say the effort was part of a coordinated two-month effort called "Operation Mountain Sweep" that took place in 7 western states, including Idaho, to target large-scale illegal marijuana grows on public land.
In late July, law enforcement officers removed 42,290 marijuana plants from state-owned public land in Caribou County. Since 2005, approximately 130,605 marijuana plants have been eradicated from public lands in Idaho.