At final count, more than 8,000 marijuana plants were discovered in Beaver Canyon, near the Mahogony Cove campground. It has an estimated street value of $12 million.
Officers have been watching the grow for a couple of weeks. Thursday morning, a swarm of law enforcement moved in to break up the illegal growing operation.
Chopper 5 was over the marijuana growing site in Beaver County as dozens of officers worked to rip the plants out of the ground and destroy them. The plants were mature, close to six feet tall and close to being ready for the street.
They were grown in a very remote area few people have probably ever explored. "This terrain is really, really tough. It's on a side hill, a very steep, treacherous area. There is a cliff within 100 yards of it, within 1,000 feet of it. And for these people to be living in that area, they must have wanted the marijuana pretty bad," Beaver County Sheriff Cameron Noel said.
Not only did police take out the plants, they destroyed the sophisticated setup.
"They had everything there. They had batteries and a power source, communication," Noel said.
Though police did not capture the growers, they had some help in driving them out of business.
Noel said, "When we arrived and got into the area where the growers were living, it appeared as if maybe a bear had got into their camp, probably last night, and destroyed their camp. We don't know what happened to the growers; they got out somehow."
Investigators believe the growers are tied to a Mexican drug cartel and have been involved in cultivating other grows in Southern Utah and Nevada.
"We're glad to get them out of here. We hope they stay out of here. We're going to continue to watch for them," Noel said. "If they come back, we'll get them again."
The plants were destroyed and law enforcement continues to encourage citizen tips about possible marijuana grow sites, but people are cautioned to be careful and quickly leave if they accidentally stumble upon one in Utah's backcountry.
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