BOISE – Federal and local authorities raided a marijuana growing operation with an estimated 11,000 plants on public land near Galena Summit in Sawtooth National Forest on Thursday.
The raid was part of what’s turning out to be a busy summer for law enforcement taking down sophisticated marijuana growing operations on private and public land.
The eradication effort under way in the Blaine County backwoods north of Ketchum is part of “Operation Mountain Sweep,” a seven-state effort to find and destroy illegal pot-growing operations on public lands across the West.
Since July 1, about 578,000 marijuana plants have been found and destroyed in Idaho, California, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Washington, Wendy Olson, U.S. attorney for Idaho, said during a news conference in Boise.
In Idaho, an estimated 58,000 pot plants have been found and eradicated during that time. The Blaine County raid was the second biggest in Idaho this summer. Authorities found and destroyed more than 42,000 pot plants in Caribou County in July, Olson said.
Authorities in Magic Valley raided smaller operations in recent weeks.
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area “is one of most magnificent national recreation areas in the United States,” said Gene Ramsey, Blaine County sheriff. “Growing marijuana in our backyard is simply not acceptable.”
So far no arrests have been made.
Olson said investigators have been aware of the operation for several weeks. It was first spotted by a bow hunter scouting the area with his son. Ramsey said a hiker stumbled upon the area on Wednesday and heard gunshots being fired behind him as he walked away.
Authorities found evidence that marijuana was grown nearby in previous years.
An estimated 130,600 marijuana plants have been destroyed since 2005 at grow sites on public land in Idaho.