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On Monday, August 13, 2007, Yosemite National Park Rangers located and seized 7,428 mature marijuana plants from three gardens in the park related to the same growing operation. The value of the marijuana plants is estimated at about $22 million.
Monday's multi-agency operation involved the cooperation of several national parks, Mariposa County Sheriffs Office, the Army National Guard, and the California Dept. of Justice Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP).
The illegal cultivation sites bore the characteristics of a Mexican drug trafficking enterprise, including a sophisticated watering system, use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. The growing operation resulted in considerable natural resource destruction.
Yosemite National Park, along with other national parks in California, is taking an aggressive stand against foreign nationals growing marijuana on park lands.
"This is an unacceptable activity that will not be tolerated in Yosemite National Park", stated Acting Superintendent Kevin Cann. "We will work with the Justice Department on these cases to ensure that marijuana cultivation does not get established in Yosemite and that the park remains safe for visitors."
The park's strategy is to completely deny access to marijuana growers. Chief Ranger Steve Shackelton stated that the park has maintained a "full court press" on the Mexican organizations who have extended their network of marijuana gardens throughout the Sierra Nevada.
"We are sending a message to the growers that you will not make a nickel if you try bringing your activity into Yosemite", added Shackelton.
Shackelton further stated that Yosemite is working with several California counties, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, and other national parks to mount a comprehensive campaign against the California based crime families that often use illiterate and financially desperate Mexican nationals to do the actual cultivation. He points out United States Attorney McGregor W. Scott of Sacramento has been an effective catalyst for bringing dozens of agencies together in the effort.
"For years we've been seeing these people make millions of dollars in profit, while they devastate the environment on private property and California's majestic public lands. They destroy habitat, pollute streams with poisons and nitrogen fertilizers, kill wildlife, and pose a fire threat. The only thing missing is public outrage," concluded Shackelton.