Conexión Del Río/Staff Report

DEL RIO – Nearly 40,000 marijuana plants worth millions of dollars, as well as other evidence including camps and irrigation equipment, were seized in Menard County, Texas, after being discovered by an aerial patrol of the county, by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Wardens.

On June 29, the Menard County Sheriff’s Office and Texas Game Wardens served an evidentiary search warrant on a ranch in eastern Menard County that was conducting an alleged illegal large-scale marijuana growing operation. 

The case remains under investigation by Menard County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Game Wardens, and Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigation Division. The site included substantial infrastructure including camps and irrigation. Menard is located on U.S. Hwy 83, between Eden and Junction, 70 miles southeast of San Angelo, Texas.

As in other states, game wardens help investigate large-scale illegal marijuana grows in rural areas because they often involve wildlife poaching, criminal trespass, and environmental crimes, including the potential for water pollution related to runoff associated with rodenticides, insecticides, fuel, and chemical fertilizers. Texas Game Wardens have recently documented marijuana grow sites where large old-growth timber has been cut on public lands.

“Our game wardens have encountered armed subjects protecting grow sites, located discarded firearms within the sites, and have been contacted by hunters and landowners who have unknowingly come across these sites,” said Colonel Craig Hunter, TPWD Law Enforcement Division Director.

“These large grow sites introduce a significant criminal element into the rural areas of our state. We will continue to assist local, state, and federal law enforcement whether we come across grow sites incidental to our normal patrols or are called to assist.”

Numerous other agencies have assisted with the investigation, including the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division, Texas Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol, Texas Department of Public Safety Aviation, McCulloch County Sheriff’s Office, Drug Enforcement Agency, Homeland Security Investigations / ICE, Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office, and National Guard.