Don Hoang stood on a hillside thick with brush in the Cleveland National Forest where in September, officers had uprooted some 1,300 illegal marijuana plants that could have netted the growers a $4 million profit.
Hoang was more concerned with what he saw scattered around him in a canyon near Ortega Highway in Orange County: pesticides so toxic that they are banned in the United States, plus fertilizer, beer cans, irrigation tubing, clothing and trash.
“For us, it’s not about the marijuana. It’s about protecting the environment, protecting the wildlife and protecting the water supply to the communities,” said Hoang, special agent in charge for U.S. Forest Service law enforcement investigations. “This is what they are doing to public lands. They are coming in and destroying it for an illicit purpose.”