LANGLADE COUNTY, Wis. (WFRV) - We're getting a first look at the site of what law enforcement officers are calling a large-scale pot growing operation. The plants were removed last week, but crews are still cleaning up the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Langlade County.
Local 5 got a tour of the location. It was a mile walk from the nearest road.
"You're very secluded," Jeff Seefeldt, a district ranger with the Forest Service. "You're next to water and plants need water."
It's prime place for pot growing. More than 8,300 marijuana plants were eradicated from the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest last week. Seefeldt said more than two dozen small locations on the banks of the Oconto River were cleared and used for growing.
"These sites will pretty much grow back on their own," he explained. "but getting the shade cover on the stream is going to take several years."
And that could have a devastating impact on the environment. With parts of the river no longer shaded, the water temperature will rise.
"Just a raise of one to two degrees in the water can wreak havoc on trout whether they move to a different area, whether it affects their spawning, there is an effect," said Seefeldt.
Not to mention the impact from fertilizers and pesticides and trash left behind by the growers. Seefeldt said this is one of the places they lived while tending to the plants.
"It's disgusting to me that people come to public land, your land my land, and use it in an illegal matter and an irresponsible manner," he added.
Seven suspects were arrested and are facing charges. Police were notified of the growing operation by a fisherman. Officials are asking any outdoor enthusiasts who happen upon something unusual in the woods to leave immediately and call police.