Watch for illegal drug operations

Illegal marijuana growing operations have become an increasing nuisance in northeastern Wisconsin.

Over the last three years, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, in cooperation with interagency enforcement agencies, has eradicated numerous marijuana grows that were cultivated by large drug trafficking organizations.

These grow sites were located on the Nicolet land base in 2010 and 2012, and the Chequamegon land base in 2011; all were first reported by hunters and fishermen.

The illegal activity of growing and harvesting marijuana on public lands is expected to continue, warns Suzanne Flory, Public Affairs Officer for the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

The safety of the public and employees is the top priority for the U.S Forest Service.

The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and other public lands are being used for these illegal operations as they are often vast, uninhabited acres the growers find have the right conditions for their illegal operations, Flory explained.

Typically planting occurs in the spring and the plants are harvested in late summer.

Even with the late snow melt in much of northern Wisconsin activity may already be occurring with these illegal grows.

These drug trafficking marijuana growers are dangerous and are known to carry firearms, Flory said.

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest officials are asking that visitors be aware of their surroundings and know what to do to remain safe.

Although it is unlikely area residents will come across one of these sites, knowing how to recognize them is vital.

Indicators of illegal marijuana grow sites include:

– Unusual amounts of traffic.

– Isolated tents in the forest where no other recreational activity is present.

– Garden tools, bags of fertilizer, and large amounts of garbage.

– Persons with little or no farming experience who purchase fertilizer.

– Plastic PVC piping, chicken wire, camouflage netting and clothing.

– Signs of cultivation/soil disturbances (many holes) in unlikely areas.

– 1 to 2 acre (or smaller) cleared areas with stumps up to approximately 3 feet tall.

– Patrolled or guarded woods, swamps and other remote areas.

If you encounter a site, or unusual circumstances you should take these actions immediately:

– Leave the area as quickly and quietly as possible.

– Do your best to know your location by use of landmarks or waypoints.

– Notify local law enforcement authorities, if on National Forest you can also notify the local Ranger District Office.

“Authorities will continue to work together to decrease this unlawful and damaging activity,” Flory said. “Your assistance is important to help stop marijuana growing in your National Forest.”

To report a suspected marijuana grow site in Michigan, call 1-800-235-HEMP (4367).

Additionally, Michigan State Police officials are warning community groups to watch for discarded items from meth labs as they clean up roadsides and other locations this spring.

Police officials say as production of the illegal drug rises, officers are finding increasing amounts of byproducts dumped in public areas.

Production of methamphetamine creates waste that can be hazardous, such as containers of volatile liquids.

People should be on the lookout for propane tanks, gallon-sized metal cans, bottles or jugs with tubing extending from the top, batteries and containers with dried residue.

If you find something that looks suspicious, don’t touch it and call 911.

The Michigan statewide meth tip line is 1-866-638-4847.

Callers can remain anonymous.