According to Forest Service Department of Agriculture for the Chequamegon-Nicholet National Forest, close to 8,400 marijuana plants have now been removed. The total amount for the plants removed is approximately $8.5 million.
Six people are facing federal drug charges in Wisconsin after law enforcement officials uncovered around $15 million dollars worth of marijuana plants growing in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
They say many of them were ready to be harvested and sold.
Authorities say the investigation began in June, after a fisherman reported seeing suspicious activity along the south branch of the Canto River near Highway 64.
Helicopters were being used Wednesday to haul the plants out of the forest. Close to 200 law enforcement officials were on the ground. Officials say they raided dozens of grow sites before the sun came up.
"The amount of the marijuana recovered so far tells you why they do it- there's dollars involved," DCI Administrator Ed Wall told reporters at a news conference.
Six people are being held at the Brown County Jail facing federal drug charges. They include Maria Blanca Garcia, Miguel Sanchez-Garcia, Pedro Enfante-Ramirez, Guillermo Chavez-Carrion, Jose Alfredo Sierra-Aguilar and Juan Carlos Cervantes Contreras. Authorities say a seventh person involved was arrested in another state.
"The Desquamation is a popular place for growers to go because it's so remote, it's so huge," Oconto County Sheriff Mike Jansen said.
Forest officials said this is a growing problem on public land. In an interview with Newsline 9, Public Affairs Officer Suzanne Flory said there have been three major pot busts in that forest in the past three years. "And they're getting more sophisticated, so the grow sites are smaller that we found this year."
She said the operations have a major impact.
"There's always just tons of garbage, tons of pesticides and hose and holes dug all over so that is a major concern," she said.
Flory told Newsline 9 forest officials do their best to look out for crime, but the Chequamegon covers 1.5 million acres. "They can be out there in areas where typically most people aren't going to be traveling," she said.
Authorities plan to be on-site removing the marijuana plants for the next several days. Then, forest officials will begin the process of cleaning up the area and restoring parts of the forest that were damaged.
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