Deputies yank 2,900 marijuana plants
at Stanford's Jasper Ridge preserve
Members of the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force and the California Highway Patrol paid a visit Wednesday to the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve on the borders of Woodside and Portola Valley and destroyed 2,900 young marijuana plants on five plots, The Almanac has learned.
The plants, had they been mature, would have had a street value of about $1.5 million, authorities said.
On Wednesday morning, after obtaining a search warrant, a team of six to eight men from the task force yanked about 2,900 young plants -- most 3 or 4 inches high -- and loaded them into a cargo net to be hauled off by a CHP helicopter and disposed of, task force commander Lt. Mark Wyss told The Almanac. The 1,189-acre Jasper Ridge preserve belongs to Stanford University.
The incident began Thursday, June 12, when employees of Jasper Ridge notified the county Sheriff's Office after happening upon the plantings, Lt. Wyss said. The employees said that three men who were at the site immediately ran away, according to a Sheriff's Office report.
On Wednesday, deputies found no weapons on the site, but a confrontation with armed guards is a concern with an outdoors operation like this, Lt. Wyss said.
The task force did recover some evidence that could be valuable in the investigation, he said. There are, as yet, no suspects.
The helicopter carried off five loads of materials, included camping gear and rations for three or four people, plastic irrigation piping, plastic sheeting, fertilizer and rat poison, Lt. Wyss said. To provide on-site water, the growers dug two deep holes in the ground and lined them with plastic.
The narcotics task force encounters between six and 12 cases every year in San Mateo County involving outdoor marijuana plots of anywhere from 500 to 5,000 plants, Lt. Wyss said.
In this case, the plants were young and there were no buds, and pulling them up was relatively easy. Mature plants can reach 14 feet by August and eradication would have been a major effort, Lt. Wyss said.
Given that it is a biological preserve, the task force team cleaned the site of all foreign materials right away, Lt. Wyss said. "We were very concerned about restoring the garden as quickly as we could," he said. "We felt it was the right thing to do." Jasper Ridge management did not ask for special treatment in cleaning up the site, he said.