Wisconsin Pot Plant Site Excavated

By KBJR News 1

August 24, 2011 Updated Aug 24, 2011 at 8:52 PM CDT

Chequamegon- Nicolet National Forest, WI (Northlands NewsCenter) - Six men have been charged in the largest marijuana bust ever made in Ashland County.

All six are charged with conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and distributing marijuana, after they were busted in early August.

Digging, taping and cleaning up the huge Marijuana cultivation site has been a huge effort. The growing operation in the Chequamegon– Nicollet National Forest would have made a profit of nearly one million dollars, which authorities say isn't your average ma and pa growing operation.

"You have one point five million acres at the National Forest. So finding a site where they can, in their minds, go undetected; and knowing how many trees to take out to allow the right amount of sunlight in. They have pretty advanced irrigation systems that they put together for these sites," says Suzanne Lory, Public Affairs officer for the Chequamegon- Nicolet National Forest.

As cleanup continues, questions about how water was brought onto this site are now becoming clear. District Ranger Connie Cummins says it has alot to do with hidden power.

"Generators are used to generate electricity obviously, that is it's generating a pump. The pump is pumping water from the river which is about fifty yards from here through an elaborate hose system.

This is one of a series of hundreds of large holes dug to hide those generators. The weed farmers also pumped in steroids to spur growth in the cannabis field so they could harvest a fast, robust crop. Good for the marijuana but very bad for the forest's ecosystem.

"The biggest thing is the fertilizer and they use a lot of fertilizer which is really bad for the water. It gets down into the soil, it can get into the ground water, it can get into the river. We have a lot of trout streams; we have a lot of wildlife. We want to protect them."

Tom Mattiae says the sophisticated operators cut down enough trees to make way for their crop but left enough trees to hide their operation.

"From the air it would I guess it would be pretty hard to pick out from normal undisturbed forests."

Along with the plants, miles of hose, vats of fertilizer and one unlucky rabbit's foot were all removed from the forest today. Efforts have already begun to restore the forest.

Written for the web by Jordan Weinand
jweinand@northlandsnewscenter.com