Game wardens uncovered a massive, multi-million dollar marijuana farm in Texas in late June, leading authorities to uproot tens of thousands of plants. No arrests were made as of early July.
A group of wardens from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department were conducting an aerial patrol over West Texas when they spotted what appeared to be a huge outdoor cannabis cultivation site. The farm was located in Menard County, roughly 150 miles west of Austin, at the eastern edge of the vast expanses of West Texas. Wardens and local sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant on the property, a ranch in the eastern part of the county.
40,000 plants found on site
Following the search, authorities described the farm as an “illegal large-scale marijuana growing operation” and estimated there were about 40,000 plants at the site. The Parks & Wildlife Department pegged the street value of the marijuana in the millions of dollars but didn’t give a specific number. Similar farms have been valued at tens of millions of dollars.
Large marijuana field raided by game wardens in West Texas, July 2016
As of early July, there were no arrests, the department said. But the wardens and other authorities found “substantial infrastructure” at the site, including long-term camp sites and entrenched irrigation systems.
State and local law enforcement involved
Several state and local agencies joined in the raid, including the Menard County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Game Wardens, and the Criminal Investigation Division of the state’s Department of Public Safety, as well as the Parks & Wildlife Department. The Texas Highway Patrol, the McCulloch County Sheriff’s Office, the DEA, the Department of Homeland Security, the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas National Guard also participated.
Authorities were still investigating the operation in July.
Largest raid of the summer
The bust was relatively large, the biggest of the summer so far, authorities said, but it didn’t come within striking distance of any of the state’s biggest cannabis take-downs. A similar discovery in 2014 led to the destruction of 100,000 marijuana plants valued at $175 million on the street. That grow, discovered by a deer hunter, was part of an even larger cultivation operation.
“Our game wardens have encountered armed subjects protecting grow sites, located discarded firearms within the sites, and have been contacted by hunters and landowners who have unknowingly come across these sites,” Col. Craig Hunter, spokesman for the Parks & Wildlife Department, said in a department press release. “These large grow sites introduce a significant criminal element into the rural areas of our state. We will continue to assist local, state, and federal law enforcement whether we come across grow sites incidental to our normal patrols or are called to assist.”
It’s not unusual for state game wardens to take part in government anti-marijuana campaigns. Illegal cannabis grows may involve wildlife poaching, trespassing, and environmental offenses such as dumping chemicals into groundwater. Illicit growers also sometimes chop down old-growth timber on public land, according to the Texas Game Wardens.
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