The U.S. Forest Service is warning people to look out for marijuana growers in South Carolina’s national forests this summer.
Not only can illicit pot operations pollute forested creeks with pesticides and cause soil erosion, but small marijuana farms are often guarded by gun-wielding drug traffickers, federal officials say.
Some signs to look for are hoses or drip lines in unexpected places; people standing on forest roads without cars present; and people with guns, even though the hunting season is closed.
“The safety of forest visitors and our employees is our top priority,” said Forest Supervisor Paul Bradley, whose agency calls marijuana growers “very dangerous people.’’ “Marijuana cultivation occurs on some National Forests and it’s important for visitors and employees to be aware of their surroundings.”
The Forest Service could not say Monday how many people have been arrested for growing marijuana on federal lands in South Carolina. Generally, officials said the problem is not widespread on public lands, the service said. The Sumter National Forest is in the central and mountain parts of South Carolina, while the Francis Marion National Forest is in the Lowcountry.