FRESNO, California — A man carrying 10,000 marijuana seeds was arrested on his way to what authorities believe would have been a secret grow site deep in California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument.
Rosario Beltran-Leal, 43, a Mexican citizen who had been living in nearby Delano, was caught at a drop point for a cultivation site in a remote area of the forest — which is famous for its soaring trees — that is closed to the public, according to federal authorities.
Prosecutors say he was also carrying a large amount of food and cultivation supplies.
The U.S. Forest Service says such illegal grows are not uncommon on public lands and are often associated with criminal gangs in Mexico. The growers often use harmful pesticides and clear out native plants to make way for the marijuana.
Last year, officials uncovered 22 grow sites in the mountains near the forest in Tulare County.
Beltran was charged with conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute and manufacturing marijuana in a federally designated area. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.