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Officials: Century old trees cut down for illegal 2-acre Pa. pot farm

Some of the downed trees were used for raised beds at the 2-acre site, officials said.

Authorities believe they have discovered the largest illegal marijuana growing operation found in Pennsylvania in Tuscarora State Park. File photo
Authorities believe they have discovered the largest illegal marijuana growing operation found in Pennsylvania in Tuscarora State Park. File photoRead morefile phto

Officials have uncovered one of  the Pennsylvania's largest illegal marijuana growing operations in state forest, where 100-year-old trees were cut down to make way for the gardens.

A Juniata couple arrested on charges of growing pot in their home face charges in connection with the case, the Public Opinion in Chambersburg reported.

About two acres of trees were cut down in the Tuscarora State Forest in Mifflin County to grow about 1,000 marijuana plants, officials stated. Some of the timber had been used to make raised beds for the grow operation, the paper reported.

"We were especially disappointed that one large conifer was cut down," Steve Wacker, assistant district forester at Tuscarora told the news site. "A couple of trees were well over 100 years old. We're trying to assess the dollar-value of the trees."

On April 1, rangers received a tip from two fishermen who noticed trees had been felled along Licking Creek in Bratton Township. Cameras were set up in the area. In late March, another fisherman reported a possible illegal growing operation along the creek. Rangers found a trail camera near the second site and downloaded images. They found images of an unidentified man who resembled a suspect photographed at grow site discovered in 2015 in Bratton Township, the paper reported.

On June 6, rangers set up another trail camera at the second site. Five days later a man was photographed tending to the plants. At the same time a Chevrolet Colorado was photographed in a nearby parking lot. Investigators compared the driver’s license photo of the car owner with those taken from the trail-cams, the story reported.

On June 29, authorities executed a search warrant at the Mifflin Borough home of Jeremy Leach, 35, and his wife Erin Leach, 37. In the home, officials discovered an alleged growing operation in the along with 63 plants, scales, jars, guns, diaries with information on the growing operation, and a map of Tuscarora State Forest pinned to a wall.

The couple was charged with possession with the intent to deliver, and other drug related charges, according to public records.

Jeremy Leach told police the marijuana was for personal use, the story reported.

The couple has not so far been charged in connection with the illegal operation found on state property.

Illegal marijuana grows are rare in Pennsylvania’s state forests, Terry Brady, spokesman for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, told the news site.