SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Authorities have uprooted about 20,000 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of between $25 million and $60 million in Wayne County.
The operation found on the north slope of Boulder Mountain this past week was the latest targeted in a major offensive against marijuana growers across Utah this summer.
Sheriff's deputies said one person was taken into custody, and the area remains under surveillance because at least a half dozen others are still at large.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Forest Service were among governmental entities that removed and destroyed the plants in two days.
On Thursday, authorities also pulled up more than 3,000 plants from a Tooele County marijuana farm with an estimated street value of $9 million.
Law enforcement authorities said they're cracking down on the pot farms because of a sharp increase in marijuana growing across Utah in the past few years.
Over the previous fiscal year, authorities found more than 100,000 plants in Utah, which is a record, said Michael Root, supervisory special agent with the DEA. He said it was almost 90,000 more than a few years ago.
DEA officials attribute the surge in the activity to Utah's proximity to California. They said the growers are usually "organized criminals" based out of California or Mexico.
Elsewhere this summer, authorities removed about 4,500 plants from a marijuana farm in Garfield County and about 1,000 plants and 2,500 seedlings from a pot farm in Washington County.
Root said discoveries of marijuana farms are common this time of year because of hunters, hikers and campers who take to the backcountry.
"This is the time of year that they usually harvest," he told the Deseret News. "I think we'll be busy here for the next three of four weeks."