There’s one type of green the Justice Department says it is busy eradicating from national parks and other federal lands: marijuana. Federal agents and U.S. attorneys in seven states are carrying out an eight-week operation targeting illegal marijuana cultivation on public land destroyed 578,000 plants valued at over $1 billion, the Justice Department said Tuesday.
Operation Mountain Sweep involved prosecutions against alleged growers and seizures in California, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. The Drug Enforcement Administration, National Park Service and other federal agencies worked with local police to conduct the eradication.
The operation comes as the Obama administration in recent months has tried to clarify its marijuana policy, after some federal agents complained the federal government appeared to be condoning pot, particularly in states where medical marijuana is legal.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama said he wouldn’t use the Justice Department to counter state laws that legalized medical marijuana. In the years since, however, Mr. Obama’s administration has hewed close to previous federal policy, which maintains cultivating the plant is illegal.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, in Sacramento, Calif., said marijuana growers “pose a safety threat to the public and an environmental threat to the land,” noting the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said the operation was a “concerted effort to reclaim these wild and beautiful areas and protect them from further destruction and exploitation.”