Folks in this area live near some of the most beautiful forests in the nation.
They are an attraction for sight-seeing, and summer vacations.
However, caution should be used when visiting these areas.
Illegal drug operations, such as marijuana gardens and methamphetamine production sites, threaten public safety and also damage the environment, National Forest officials warn.
For many years, the Forest Service and other law enforcement agencies have worked together to identify and clean-up illegal drug operations on National Forest lands in Michigan.
In recent years, these illegal activities have increased. For example, 2010 marked the first time that authorities found marijuana grow sites on Michigan's National Forest lands operated by large drug trafficking organizations.
Organized marijuana grow operations have also been discovered in national forests in neighboring Wisconsin.
According to Forest Supervisor Jo Reyer, the safety of national forest visitors and Forest Service employees is the agency's top priority.
All local partner agencies are committed to keeping national forests' workforce and public safe, and preventing the resource damage that occurs from the illegal marijuana operations.
"While it's unlikely visitors will come across this kind of activity, we also want to make sure that hunters, hikers, campers and other recreationists know how to stay safe," said Reyer.
Most illegal drug production activity is during the spring and summer months, but the sites can remain dangerous year-round due to chemicals, explosives and other materials sometimes found on the premises.
The Forest Service's mission includes the protection and sustainability of public watersheds, native vegetation, wildlife and fisheries habitat, soils productively, and other ecosystem functions on 193 million acres nationwide.
Common signs of marijuana grows include:
- Informal, unmarked hiking trails.
- Human habitation in remote areas; signs of established camping, cooking, and sleeping areas.
- Gardening paraphernalia like hose drip irrigation, fertilizer bags, insecticides and tools.
- Pungent strong odor. Marijuana plants can have a strong smell, especially on hot days.
- Paper cups, chicken wire, or plastic sheets. These are often used for starting and protecting plants.
- Signs of cultivation or soil disturbance in forested areas, especially in remote areas.
- Trash in remote areas.
- Propane bottles or tanks. Growers use propane to avoid smoke from campfires.
- Sights or sounds of human activity in remote forest areas.
- People sitting in the forest along forest roads. They may be growers waiting for food drops or supplies.
- Food cached near trailheads or alongside roads.
- Individuals with firearms when hunting seasons are closed.
- Booby traps such as explosives triggered by trip wires.
Signs of a methamphetamine production lab include the presence of:
- Household chemicals.
- Glassware and tubing.
- Cookstoves or bunson burners.
If you come across signs of illegal activity:
- Do not approach or confront the individuals present at the site; do not in any way indicate that you are suspicious of their activities.
- Immediately leave the area along the same route you entered.
- Watch for other people in the area.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times. In some instances, potentially dangerous devices or harmful materials might be nearby.
- Make every effort to avoid contact with suspicious packages and/or equipment; they might be highly volatile.
- When you are safely away, write down a detailed description of the activities taking place, the area, the people, and any vehicles.
- Immediately report the activity to local law enforcement or Forest Service personnel.
If you have questions about illegal drug-related activity on the
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, call 715-362-1300. On the Hiawatha National Forest, call 906-428-5800.