COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich.—Michigan State Police announced a major pot grow operation bust in Van Buren County last week.
They found more than 14,000 plants guarded by armed gunmen who took off when police arrived. The grow was just yards away from popular hiking trails, and neighbors say this isn’t the first time a bust like this has happened. Just two years ago, the same thing happened in the same area.
State police say this marijuana grow operation is worth $15 million.
“When a lot of people come over here, they’ll see the woods, and they are thinking money,” said John, a resident of Covert Township.
John has lived in the area his whole life, and he says large grow operations have recently been popping up.
“I don't understand how they couldn't catch them because, like I said before, something like this happened, and it happened in the same spot,” he said.
There are dozens of trails that people walk and hike on every day, and most of them would have never known there was an illegal operation going on unless they came off the path. The tall and thick brush that fills almost every area would make it very hard to find any marijuana.
The Nature Conservancy owns the 1,450 acres of land where the marijuana crops were harvested. The director of conservation, Chris May, says the person who gave the tip to police is someone who enjoys the nature preserve regularly.
“I got a call yesterday from a person who we permit to hunt out there for white tail deer, and he told me himself that he had reported this particular incident,” said May.
May is grateful that someone reported it, but it’s not ideal. H he doesn’t want the public to be in any danger.
“Having activity like that is a big concern to us for a couple of different reasons. First, just because we are a nature conservancy and we are concerned about having our plant communities and keeping them in pristine condition. Second, we are concerned because, having the general public out there involved in recreation, there's dangerous situations that could arise if they encounter something that is involved with illegal activity."
May admits that there’s not much that can be done to prevent it from happening again. “Some areas of that reserve are remote, and unfortunately the people involved in these sort of activities look for remote areas,” said May.
Despite Michigan State Police using a helicopter, police dogs, and foot crews, the suspects police were after got away for now, and that’s really what raises red flags for people like John.
“That’s the only thing that concerns me is how they were able to get away,” said John
Michigan State Police say this isn’t something they would typically see in this state. They says it’s usually something that happens on the western United States.
Officers are looking for two Hispanic males who fled through the heavy brush to a location off County Road 376. Police believe there’s a possibility they could have been picked up by accomplices. They are asking anyone that may have saw something to call 269-982-9664.