Police seize marijuana plants on Native lands

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WARM SPRINGS, Ore. (AP) – Police have seized 1,630 marijuana plants in a raid on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, in what tribal authorities call the latest sign of increasing drug cultivation on Indian lands.

The Aug. 14 raid, which didn’t result in any arrests, was the fourth such seizure at the Central Oregon reservation since July 2007. Authorities found 30,584 plants in the earlier busts.

Warm Springs tribal police Chief Carmen Smith told the Oregonian that illegal growers have wormed their way into the reservation by taking girlfriends who live there, scouting remote spots and setting up camps in remote areas where people seldom go.

“We’re so busy that we don’t have time to make these rural patrols,” Smith said.

Like other tribal police agencies, Smith’s department focuses on policing his town and nearby neighborhoods. The drug growers exploit the holes.

In the late summer months, outdoor pot seizures are common across much of Oregon as growers start to harvest their crops. But in recent years, Smith said, growers have been turning to Native lands for remote areas in which to grow their crops.

The department has been able to target some of the plantations by putting tribal police in Oregon Army National Guard helicopters to scout from the air. That’s how they found Friday’s target.

For a month, police kept watch on a group of men as they tended the marijuana.

At daybreak Friday, a task force of investigators began sneaking up on the campsite. The path to the camp was so overgrown with brush that it took nearly three hours to silently make their way 500 yards.

Still, they must have been overheard. Just as they came upon the camp, investigators heard someone running through the woods, said Warm Springs Detective John Webb.

The investigators discovered a sophisticated irrigation system that used gravity to pull water into the gardens. The tarps and other equipment matched what they found in earlier seizures on the reservation, Webb said.

“It was quite well camouflaged,” Webb said. “The plants were anywhere from two feet to seven feet in height. They looked like they had two, maybe three different strains.”

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