Drug enforcement agents found more than 500 marijuana farms in San Diego County forests and parks since 2007 along with banned pesticides, poisons and discarded equipment used during the grows, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said.
Agents in San Diego County seized 1.5 million marijuana plants worth an estimated $3 billion over the past five years. The illicit farms were in near Palomar Mountain, in Cleveland National Forest, between avocado groves, and within walking distance from California State University San Marcos, Duffy said.
The marijuana grows were responsible for the destruction of natural vegetation, Duffy said on Tuesday.
Authorities found makeshift kitchens, sleeping areas and bathrooms.
Shotgun shells, discarded irrigation lines and containers from fertilizers, pesticides, and poisons smuggled from Mexico that could contaminate the local water supply were also recovered, Duffy said.
Agents found discarded car and motorcycle engines used to charge cellphones during the five-month growing season that ends in October, officials said.
“Most people likely have no idea how much marijuana is grown on public lands or that these grows are being operated at the expense of our pristine forests and parks,” said Duffy.
The most recent bust in San Diego County was in July when 41,000 plants valued at $82 million were seized in the Warner Springs area. The largest recent farm located was in a remote area of the Cuyamaca Mountains where 80,000 plants worth an estimated $160 million were seized.