4,200 Marijuana plants found growing in Coconino National Forest

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The following is a press release from the Coconino County Sheriff's Office:

FLAGSTAFF -- On Wednesday July 16, 2008 at approximately 5:00 am local, state and federal police officers raided a clandestine marijuana grow located in Coconino National Forest in a remote area at the bottom of Woods Canyon resulting in the seizure of approximately 4,200 plants.

On July 7, 2008 two outdoor enthusiasts who were hiking in a remote and rugged area at the bottom of Woods Canyon located South of Schnebly Hill Road and west of Interstate Highway 17 in the Coconino National Forest, when they discovered what they believed to be a large marijuana farm. The two concerned citizens reported their suspicions to members of the Northern Arizona Street Crimes Task Force (Metro). Metro agents responded to the scene and observed the described area from the top of the rim. Agents did not enter the canyon fearing they may alert suspects who were in the area and tending to the plants. With the use of spotting scopes and other vision enhancing equipment, taskforce members were able to confirm the information provided by the two hikers.

The Coconino County Sheriff's Office, the United States Forest Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Flagstaff Police Department formed a joint investigative task force. Task force members were positioned in strategic locations that allowed them to conduct surveillance of the suspected marijuana field and surrounding area. During the investigations detectives and agents observed as many as five male individuals who appeared to be caring for the plants.

The investigation culminated with the formation of a joint multi disciplinary taskforce intended to monitor suspect activity, prevent evidence destruction and apprehend any suspects who were associated with this illegal marijuana cultivation operation. On July 16, 2008 taskforce members descended the canyon and secured the area. Due to the thick vegetation, the vast area involved and the steep terrain, five suspects who were believed to be in the area were able to elude apprehension. Officers secured approximately 4,200 marijuana plants and numerous other items that are associated with an illegal cultivation operation.