I-Team: Task force busts 6,000-plant pot farm in Lincoln Co.

CALIENTE, Nev. -- A pot farm, growing in the mountains near Caliente, has been taken down by a Nevada drug task force.

Lincoln County deputies, along with Metro Police and federal rangers, destroyed the grow operation Tuesday.

The I-Team was in Lincoln County and has the exclusive story of how officers found and eliminated the illegal enterprise.

A big concern about this operation was the pot fields were on public land. Obviously that creates the potential danger of average folks stumbling onto a marijuana grow operation, tended and protected by armed drug dealers.

A caravan of officers from multiple agencies descended from the mountains near Caliente Tuesday, after what was essentially a seek-and-destroy mission.

The target was an illegal marijuana grow operation on public land near the Oak Springs summit in Lincoln County. It was not simply of patch of marijuana growing wild in the wilderness.

"Definitely, clearly cultivated. There were about seven different gardens in the area that we found. Some of them we knew about, some of them we didn't know 'till we got there," Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry D. Lee said.

Because the marijuana grow operation was located in such high, rugged country, officers had to use ATVs to get up and at the illegal crop.

"We did see some suspects, although we were unable to catch them due to the terrain. We had approximately 50 officers up there but even with that many officers, with the terrain the way it is, we were just unable to circle the entire grow. We were able to recover some firearms within the grow," Sheriff Lee said.

Officers destroyed more than 6,000 mature plants with an estimated street value of between $2 million and $3 million. While this area is pretty remote, it is open to the public and police are always concerned about average folks bumping into armed, illegal growers.

"The problem is: we're going into hunting season right now. So, there's hunters out there. So, it does make it dangerous for the public, not only the officers, but for the public who are out on the public lands hunting or whatever," Lee said.

It is often hikers and hunters who alert authorities to illegal grow operations on public land, but in this case, it was actually a Nevada Air Guard helicopter crew that spotted the grow from the air, while on a routine mission that just happened to take them over that area.

Of course, police warn hikers, hunters and others to leave the area if they find marijuana cultivation operations on public property.

They say if possible, get GPS coordinates from a phone or other device and then let police know as soon as possible where the grow is located.


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