According to park officials, 2,986 plants were pulled from the grounds with the help of the California National Guard.
“This is a national park and it’s supposed to be preserved,” park spokesperson Zach Behrens said. “But if someone is going to build what is essentially a farm that’s a huge problem.”
“Whether it’s marijuana or pineapples the big problem for us is that the resource is damaged,” said Behrens, explaining that traffickers who plant illegal grow operations often bring in chemicals, chop down trees and divert water from natural sources to keep the marijuana plants alive.
Officials said the growth of illegal marijuana plants on public land has been a trending problem in California since the late 1990s.
In a press release, the National Parks Services said an estimated 21,000 marijuana plants have been removed from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks this year alone. That’s five times more illegal marijuana cultivation over the last five years.
The California National Guard has between 220 and 300 people on its Counterdrug Task Force to help curb such incidents. A spokesperson said the Task Force has helped seize over 1.7 million marijuana plants in the past year.
Officials speculated that growers like to use public land because the bush is expansive, resource rich and easy to hide within.
Video footage from the latest removal shows that helicopters were required to carry out all of the plants because there is no road that leads to that part of the land.
Come Nov. 8, Californians will be voting on Proposition 64, which would legalize adult recreational marijuana use in the state. Medicinal marijuana has been legal in California since 1996.
Behrens said marijuana grow operations such as this would still remain illegal if Proposition 64 passes due to the depletion of resources on federally protected land.
“These lands aren’t for farming anything,” he said. “We’re not supposed to even take one pine cone out of the park.”
Law enforcement officials are still investigating and no arrests have been made.