About 75,000 marijuana plants were seized and 11 suspects were arrested by authorities in Southern California during an investigation into illegal grows in Los Padres National Forest.
The Ventura County sheriff's office said in a statement Monday that the quantities represent a “significant increase" compared to previous eradication efforts, the Ventura County Star reported.
The agency conducted 18 investigations between May and October in and around national forest land that netted 74,600 marijuana plants, 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms) of harvested marijuana and 84 firearms at multiple sites. Officials said the illegally grown marijuana is often sold on the black market at high profit.
The operations often leave trash behind and use pesticides and other illegal and highly toxic chemicals, authorities said. Growers also remove natural vegetation, causing erosion and diverting and contaminating streams.
Sheriff's officials used helicopters to bring in law enforcement personnel and to haul out marijuana, trash and other supplies, because many of the cultivation sites are miles away from roads and trails, authorities said, adding the seized materials are later buried at a disposal site.
The sheriff’s office narcotics bureau, SWAT team and aviation unit were involved in the effort. No further information was immediately released.