Dangers to the Environment

Another obligation which the DPS Investigation Division has under Nevada Revised Statutes 480 and 453 involves the investigation and enforcement of federal and state narcotic laws. Part of these investigations involve the identification and eradication of illegal Marijuana grows taking place on public lands within the State of Nevada which often take place in remote and rugged terrain. Given the size and remoteness of Nevada, which consists of approximately 109,781 square miles, detectives face many challenges in accessing many of the remote areas in which individuals associated with drug organizations utilize to illegally grow Marijuana. Because many of these illicit grow sites take place in remote or rugged areas, detectives not only have the problem of making their way into these areas, but have the difficulty in extracting many of the seized plants and items associated with these grows. Oftentimes, detectives must make use of special equipment such as all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s), four-wheel drive trucks, and helicopters to help remove many of the items which the growers have left or discarded at the illegal grow site.

During the course of several illegal Marijuana grows which have taken place on publicly managed lands, personnel of the DPS Investigation Division have noted the growing need to have durable equipment to assist them with the eradication of these dangerous sites. Most notably, detectives have encountered many by-products associated with these illegal outdoor grows which they must often remove from the grow sites in addition to the thousands of plants which they must remove as well. These by-products often consist of items which the Marijuana growers bring with them to the grow sites such as fertilizers, irrigation tubing, pesticides, chemicals, camping gear, food, clothing, and personal and hygiene items necessary to operate the illegal grow sites for months at a time. Because the growers frequently utilize highly toxic pesticides and chemicals to ensure a larger Marijuana plant harvest and to keep animals, rodents, and insects away from the plants, detectives must assist in the removal of these harmful chemicals so that these chemicals and pesticides don’t continue to make their way into the ecosystem where they will contaminate the soil, water table, and surrounding plant and animal life.

The following demonstrates what has become typical of many of the illegal Marijuana grows which DPS detectives continue to encounter on public lands in Nevada:

On Thursday, August 27, 2015, personnel from the DPS Investigation Division, the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Nevada National Guard, and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office conducted an operation in which they eradicated a large illicit marijuana grow located in the remote mountains of central Lincoln County, Nevada. Law enforcement personnel conducted the eradication during the early morning hours, and as a result of their efforts, recovered approximately 6,476 plants which they estimated to have a street value of $17 million. Based on evidence which personnel located and developed, it appeared that the individuals associated with a drug trafficking organization had operated this illegal grow site for several years, and that this illegal grow site was capable of producing large quantities of illegal Marijuana intended for sales and distribution.

In addition to the 6,476 illegal Marijuana plants which they seized, law enforcement personnel also recovered and removed nearly two miles of black irrigation piping along with various chemicals which the operators of this illicit grow had been using during the growing process. Because of this, law enforcement personnel had to rely upon the assistance of a CH-47 Chinook Helicopter from the Nevada National Guard in order to assist them with the removal of several hundreds of pounds of trash which the growers had left behind.