BATTLE AGAINST ILLEGAL DRUG TRADE -- (Extensions of Remarks - September 29, 2006)
SPEECH OF HON. GREG WALDEN OF OREGON
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2006
* Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to share with you my pride and deep gratitude for a group of people who have truly made a difference in our battle against the illegal drug trade that threatens the very fabric of American society.
* As you know, Mexican drug cartels have recently been operating large scale marijuana growing and processing operations in our National Forests, National Parks, and Bureau of Land Management lands. Growing marijuana and conducting illegal drug activities on our public lands is nothing new. What is new is the extremely large scale of the operations, the heavily armed growers, and the aggressive resistance toward law enforcement. With assault rifles and booby traps, these criminals, the majority of whom are in this country illegally, are fearlessly intent on protecting a collective enterprise that grosses billions of dollars each year. They have made parts of our public lands, traditionally used for recreation and hunting, unsafe to visit.
* Because of sophisticated growing techniques which employ drip irrigation, chemical fertilizers, and lethal pesticide compounds, these operations inflict serious damage on the environment. Furthermore, these operations are intertwined with the trade and manufacture of other illegal drugs such as meth, heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy.
* Mr. Speaker, these criminal operations are attracted to public lands not only because of their remote locations, but also because our federal land agencies have very small law enforcement forces. They were never designed to combat crime on such a massive scale. Who then can draw a powerful line in the sand and both force the invading cartels away from our public lands and protect the public from them and the scourge of drugs they produce?
* In my district, this challenge has been taken up by a coalition of local law enforcement professionals who have voluntarily formed task forces large enough to disrupt these enormous operations and send a message that such criminal activity will not be tolerated. They have let the cartels know with certainty that they will pay dearly if they operate in our back yard.
* To challenge such a formidable criminal enterprise, it takes intelligence, bravery, and an unselfish sense of purpose. I have witnessed all of those characteristics displayed in exemplary fashion in southern Oregon and northern California. In the past few weeks, a task force of over 175 people and 19 agencies, led by Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters and Siskiyou County Sheriff Rick Riggins, dealt a telling blow on the cartels' illicit activities on our public lands.
* In a series of well-timed and meticulously executed raids on both sides of the Oregon/California border, this amazing group of dedicated individuals eradicated 27.6 tons of marijuana from our public lands in a matter of a few days! They removed well over $320,000,000 from the drug trade and forcefully sent the message to the cartels that they will not be able to do business as usual in southern Oregon and northern California.
* Mr. Speaker, it is not hard to imagine the work and commitment involved in assembling so many able and dedicated people from municipal, county, state, and federal agencies. With no single law enforcement agency large enough to handle the task, these dedicated law enforcement professionals and volunteers formed to combat a common enemy that was dealing massive amounts of drugs and creating mayhem on our forest landscape. Driven by sense of duty, respect for the law, and a commitment to protect the public, they got the job done.
* Needless to say, Mr. Speaker, I am very proud and appreciative of what these outstanding people have done for us. I know that all of my colleagues join me today in saluting their stellar performance. We are honored to extend to them the gratitude of our entire nation.
* Please join me in congratulating these agencies and individuals for a job well done. We owe them so much for their sacrifice and dedication.
* Jackson County Sheriffs Office, Jackson County Search and Rescue, Jackson County Narcotics Enforcement Team (JACNET), Siskiyou County Sheriffs Office S.W.A.T., Douglas County Sheriffs Office D.I.N.T., Klamath Falls Police Department S.W.A.T., Josephine County Sheriffs Office, Shady Cove Police Department, Bureau of Land Management, Law Enforcement Section, United States Forest Service, Law Enforcement Section, Oregon State Police, SWAT and MRT Units, US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.), Drug Enforcement Agency, Medford Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, S.W.A.T., Portland Police Bureau, S.W.A.T., Jackson County Fire District #3, and Oregon Department of Forestry.