As if sanctioned industrial development on sacred tribal lands weren’t enough, the Hoopa Tribe in California is also contending with desecration by organized crime growing marijuana.
More than 26,000 marijuana plants from what authorities called a “sophisticated grow operation” were eradicated from Hoopa Valley Tribal land on Tuesday August 7 in the largest marijuana seizure of 2012 to date, The Times-Standard reported.
The Hoopa Tribal Police worked with the Sheriff’s office, the Humboldt County drug task force, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Marshals Office, the California Department of Justice Narcotics Enforcement, the Bureau of Land Management and the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, according to a statement from the office of the sheriff to The Times-Standard.
It took four to five hours for 30 officers to chop down the 26,600 plants, which were from four to six feet tall, Bryan Quenell, the sergeant in charge of the Sheriff’s Office’s Community Response Unit, told the newspaper.
According to Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman Leonard Masten, the tribe encounters small gardens fairly regularly. Typically they’re just a few hundred plants, such as those netted in a mid-July raid of 609 plants, from two to three feet tall, off the reservation in Benton, as described by the sheriff’s office.
But this grow took it to a new level. The plants were discovered after biologists and foresters conducting nighttime spotted-owl surveys heard shots fired during multiple trips, the sheriff’s office said. The tribe then alerted police, who did helicopter reconnaissance and found what could only be described as a farm—a series of five-acre plots, interconnected by trails.
”The gardens were large, cleared areas with marijuana planted in rows, almost like corn,” Sheriff Mike Downey said.
Besides desecrating sacred land, Masten said, the plants posed a potential environmental threat from fertilizers and pesticides that could run off into nearby Mill Creek and watershed areas, a source of salmon for the tribe. Tribal crews will conduct the remainder of the cleanup, Masten said. He told The Times-Standard, “We’re very conscious of what we do on our land, and it’s our responsibility to protect it so that, 100 years from now, new generations coming up still have it.”