Forest pot growers sentenced to federal prison
March 22, 2016
Steamboat Springs — Two men caught growing marijuana in the Routt National Forest have been sentenced to prison.
Alfonso Rodriguez-Vazquez and Nestor Fabian Sinaloa-Sinaloa, Mexican nationals who were in the country illegally, were arrested after authorities found the 3/4-acre grow site in the Buffalo Pass area. A total of 926 plants were seized.
Forest Service officials learned about the grow from a tip.
People working with the U.S. Forest Service to design new trails reported seeing two people in camouflage taking water from a creek into the woods Aug. 22.
On Aug. 25, Forest Service law enforcement officers conducted reconnaissance of the area. During the early morning hours of Aug. 28, law enforcement officers raided the area. The men came out of their tent and were arrested.
In November, Rodriguez-Vazquez and Sinaloa-Sinaloa pleaded guilty to growing 50 or more marijuana plants.
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U.S. District Court Chief Judge Marcia S. Krieger sentenced Sinaloa-Sinaloa to 33 months in federal prison. Rodriguez-Vazquez was sentenced to 30 months. Both will be supervised for three years after being released.
"Growing marijuana on public lands is not only a violation of the drug laws, it is a devastating form of environmental crime," U.S. Attorney John Walsh said in a news release. "The Forest Service and Routt County Sheriff's Office, with the support of Homeland Security Investigation, deserve particular credit for their aggressive law enforcement work, which ensured that these two individuals were arrested and held criminally accountable."
The Forest Service believes illegal grow operations pose a risk to public safety and harm the environment.
“Overall, the negative impact of marijuana sites on natural resources is severe,” the news release stated. “Human waste, trash and the use of pesticides are widespread, contamination from sites affects fish and wildlife habitats and soil erosion is common.”
Chad Stewart, the Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears district ranger for the Forest Service, said workers picked up a phenomenal amount of trash at the grow site. Forest Service workers will return this spring to evaluate the area, but Stewart does not think they will have to revegetate the area. It is unclear if there will be issues related to erosion.
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