BOISE -- Thousand of marijuana plants were found at two grow operations in Boise County.
U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson says many marijuana grow operations have ties outside the state and even the country, to Mexican drug cartels. For the cartels, marijuana is a cash crop.
Olson said Idaho's vast, largely uninhabited wilderness makes the Gem State a good location to hide a marijuana growing operation.
It's an attractive place for the marijuana grow operations because there's a lot of remote area, makes it easier to hide the marijuana, Olson said.
Olson said busting the grows is a tough job for local, state, and federal law enforcement.
Every year they run some operations to try to track them down, but the remoteness and the difficulty, again, of identifying the marijuana compared to the surrounding foliage is a real problem, said Olson.
The Boise County grow operations don't stand alone.
This August, officers in south-central Idaho seized 3,300 marijuana plants from a grow site in the Sawtooth National Forest. Last July, an anonymous tip led authorities to a dozen marijuana grow sites in a Gooding County corn field.
Olson says the public plays an important role in finding these grow sites and reporting them.
Many times they are tips from people who are out doing what Idahoans love to do, using our public lands for recreational purposes, for hunting purposes she said.
Olson said people running a growing operation may be dangerous, so if you come across one, get out of the area and call law enforcement.
The Boise County Sheriff's Office worked with several agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service to arrest four Mexican nationals and a woman from Caldwell.
They will be in federal court next Friday. If convicted, they face at least five years in federal prison, a maximum fine of $5 million, and at least four years of supervised release.
Agents found two semi-automatic handguns and an AK-47 type rifle in the sleeping area of the grow site.
Those who possessed the firearms face a consecutive five-year sentence.
The Boise County sheriff says the two grows had roughly 40,000 plants with a future potential street value of $100 million.
Olsen said they processed over 5,500 plants for their case against the suspects. Under the law, prosecutors only need 1,100 plants to charge someone with the maximum penalty.