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Yosemite National Park rangers raid and eradicate marijuana growing site in the park

August 27, 2010 | 10:47 am

Some of the marijuana plants seized Tuesday in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite National Park rangers raided a large marijuana cultivation site in El Portal on Tuesday and seized 3,657 plants plus several pounds of processed marijuana worth an estimated $14.6 million.

The site was on land in both Yosemite National Park and the Sierra National Forest. The marijuana plants found ranged in size from young, 1-foot-tall plants to a mature plot with plants that were 5- to 10-feet tall.

The area was remote enough that hikers or other visitors to the park did not walk into it. Two men -- one armed with a loaded .45 caliber pistol concealed under his clothing -- were working the cultivation site during the raid and were taken into custody. Both suspects are Mexican nationals in the U.S. illegally and are currently in custody awaiting charges to be filed.

"We want these growers to know that we will not tolerate this type of activity on public lands and we will continue to aggressively seek out and eradicate illegal marijuana growing operations," Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher said in a statement.

The operation, which came about after a joint investigation by the U.S. Forest Service and Mariposa County Sheriff's Office, concluded safely with only a few minor injuries to officers.

The grow site had hose lines, fertilizers, trash and human waste throughout the area and suffered extensive resource damage, including damage to the native vegetation and landscape.

This is the second pot farm discovered in Yosemite in as many years. In August 2009, Yosemite rangers and National Park Service Agents, with assistance from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, removed 4,735 marijuana plants valued at nearly $19 million from within the park.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Some of the marijuana plants seized Tuesday in Yosemite National Park. Credit: National Park Service