Lt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095
Jeremy Stinson, State Parks Law Enforcement, (707) 875-3907
Vicky Waters, State Parks Communications, (916) 653-5115
Law enforcement officers from the California Natural Resources Agency arrested four men for cultivating marijuana in a remote area of Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Sonoma County over the weekend.
California State Park Rangers have been watching the illegal grow site for months after it was reported to officials by a park employee. On Aug. 2, officers cut down and removed more than 150 fully grown marijuana plants with an approximate value of $300,000. All the marijuana plants were growing inside the park boundaries.
“As the drought wears on, marijuana growers are likely to be more and more creative in finding places to set up these illegal grows where they can find easy access to water,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Assistant Chief Briand Naslund. “Marijuana uses six to eight gallons of water per plant, per day.”
Working with the State Park Rangers, wildlife officers from the CDFW Marijuana Enforcement Team entered the grow site and immediately located and arrested two suspects, one carrying a firearm. Two additional suspects were found and arrested at the trailhead above the grow.
Officers arrested Alfredo Soto, 33, of Santa Rosa; Noe Calderon-Garcilazo, 32, of Santa Rosa; Erick Reynoso, 34, of Cotati; and Jose Reynoso, 41, of Santa Rosa. All four were charged with marijuana cultivation, committing a felony while armed with a firearm, polluting a state waterway and damaging state park plant life and geological features.
During the arrests, a chihuahua belonging to one of the suspects ran into the forest. Fearing that the dog would be lost, several officers and CDFW K-9 officer Phebe set off in pursuit. After a short search and excellent tracking by Phebe, the terrified dog, “Snake”, was found hiding in a small canyon.
In addition to the plants officers found hundreds of feet of irrigation tubing, wire fencing, fertilizers and pesticides. The suspects were tapping a spring, which was the only water source in the vicinity. The water was diverted to the illegal marijuana grow, depriving all local wildlife of its most basic need and further exacerbating the state’s severe drought.
“Snake” was safely transported to Sonoma Valley Animal Control, where he is being cared for.