Suspected forest marijuana growers remain in custody
Steamboat Springs — Two men suspected of growing nearly 1,000 marijuana plants in the Routt National Forest remained in federal custody Friday.
A federal judge on Thursday ruled that Alfonso Rodriguez-Vazquez be held without the opportunity to post bond. The judge noted Rodriguez-Vazquez was a Mexican citizen, and he did not contest staying in custody. Nestor Fabian Sinaloa-Sinaloa has a court hearing Wednesday in Grand Junction.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, “trail layout cooperators” working with the U.S. Forest Service witnessed suspicious activity in the Buffalo Pass area Aug. 22.
Kent Foster with the Steamboat Springs Forest Service office said people had been in the area working on planning for new trails.
According to the affidavit, two people in camouflage were seen taking water from the creek into the woods. The trail workers took a GPS reading and reported the incident to Forest Service officials.
On Aug. 25, Forest Service law enforcement officers conducted reconnaissance of the area and found marijuana plants, trash, clothing and a worn trail.
At 9,000-plus feet, the Buffalo Pass area has a short growing season. In a photo provided by the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, the plants appeared to be a couple of feet tall.
During the early morning hours of Aug. 28, law enforcement officers raided the area.
When ordered, Rodriguez-Vazquez and Sinaloa-Sinaloa came out of a tent and were taken into custody.
On the tent floor, officers found a loaded .22-caliber pistol that was reported stolen to the Westminster Police Department in 2013. Also found were two wallets, a machete, two knives and food.
According to the affidavit, 926 plants were recovered. Foster said the plants were taken into evidence and not destroyed in the forest.
Officials also point out that each marijuana plant is estimated to require a gallon of water a day, and water diversions can negatively impact the water supply for native vegetation, wildlife and the public.
Buried in a trail was an irrigation line going from a creek to the plants.
Foster said it is not unheard of to discover marijuana grow operations in the Routt National Forest. During his 20-plus-year career, he could recall between six and eight grow operations.
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