The Chequamegon-Nicolet National forest in Wisconsin is a peaceful place for outdoor enthusiasts to spend their time, and the number of visitors increases with the summer season. Typically hikers would have to be concerned about encountering dangerous wildlife like bears or wolves, but over the past few years another potentially dangerous predator has been added to that list– illegal marijuana growers, who are armed to the hilt and unafraid to open fire.
Hunters have stumbled upon these growing sites in the past, and they’ve avoided an altercation by slowly and quietly backing away from the situation, not confronting the growers directly.
12 men were arrested in 2010 for cutting down sections of forest in the park to grow over 10,000 marijuana plants. They were found to have a nearby makeshift residence stocked with weapons, including assault rifles. Many of the men who were arrested in that case were illegal immigrants from Mexico. The men received prison sentences ranging from just shy of 2 years all the way up to 11 years.
A similar, slightly smaller, growing operation was discovered in the same national park in August of 2011. These individuals also had built temporary residences that were protected by armed guards.
The state forest is a popular place during the summer for trout fishermen, as well as hikers and hunters. This is also the time when marijuana growers will begin working on their summer crop. Park officials are warning people who take advantage of the northern forests in Wisconsin to be on the lookout for marijuana growing operations, and to exercise caution in the area.
Public affairs officer for the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Service Suzanne Flory explained, “We don’t want to scare people into thinking it’s not safe to come to the national forest, but at the same time, this is something relatively new for Wisconsin, so we want people to be more situationally aware.”