The Los Padres National Forest, a popular hiking and recreational resource abutting the City of Santa Barbara and neighboring communities, is apparently a horticultural paradise as well, supporting the growth of both spectacular natural vegetation and woodlands, but also the fertile ground for what appears to be boundless illegal marijuana cultivation.
According to Kelly Hoover, SBSD Public Information Officer, Santa Barbara County Sheriffs Deputies have conducted aerial and ground surveillance over the past several weeks, leading to the seizure and destruction of approximately $85million in marijuana plants.
Hoover added that the raids were conducted by “a host of state and federal agencies, including the California Department of Justice, the U.S. Forest Service, the California National Guard, the Santa Barbara Regional Narcotic Enforcement Team, and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife.”
The raids noted in Hoover’s statement commenced on July 11th and wrapped up just five days later, on July 16th, targeting no less than 10 full-scale marijuana growing operations involving the destruction of 47,000 individual plants.
Hoover further reported that these multi-agency raids were highly coordinated and involved the efforts of the Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit to both identify the illegal grows and to transport the contraband marijuana to alternate areas for combustion and eradication.
Arrested during the detection and destruction efforts were Jose Humberto Rivera, 46, and Jose Garcia-Armas, 34. Both men were transported from the National Forest land to Santa Barbara County Jail where they were booked on charges of marijuana cultivation.
These raids follow enforcement activity a week prior in the Romero Canyon wilderness just north of the Montecito residential area occupied by such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey and actor Rob Lowe, and which involved the seizure and destruction of approximately 17,000 marijuana plants discovered by aerial surveillance.
Photos: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Jail Bookings; Santa Barbara County Sheriffs
Ventura County Star- 27,000 Pot Plants Destroyed on Federal Land in Santa Barbara County
Santa Ynez Valley News- $85M in Marijuana Plants Eradicated