Spotted by a helicopter: A Nevada Air Guard helicopter on a routine cross state training mission, spotted the large marijuana grow that law enforcement officials and deputies raided and destroyed last week in Lincoln County.

Sheriff Kerry Lee gave new information on how the discovery was made and said the helicopter was “on a routine training exercise, not looking for anything, but did have a trained spotter on board, who happened to look out the windows as they flew overhead and said he thought he saw an area on the ground that looked like marijuana plants growing.”

Lee said aerial photographs were taken and the evidence was turned over to the Bureau of Land Management, who in turn contacted the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department and the Eastern Nevada Drug Enforcement Task Force, and plans were made.

Some 6,000 plants were taken in the raid last week. Lee said they were being cultivated in an area southwest of Caliente, located in extremely steep, rugged mountain terrain. “There were seven separate gardens, covering an area about the size of two football fields. Not the entire area, but in little patches here and here, mixed in so the plants could be camouflaged with the natural vegetation.” He said it was getting close to harvest time.

“We have believed that even though we have eradicated several grows in the past few years, more were out there, we just didn’t know where they were at. Lincoln County is remote, and there’s water, and it’s too lucrative of a business not to be here.”

But the terrain he said, was unforgiving, rocky and very thick with trees and brush. “It didn’t surprise me a bit that we were unable to catch anyone.”

Law enforcement had about 50 officers make the raid, but because of the location and the terrain, Lee said “it was the most difficult marijuana grow myself and some of the other officers from other agencies with us had ever seen.” He noted one officer commented he had worked in Nevada and Idaho as a rancher for many years and did not know mountainous country like that existed in Nevada, let alone Lincoln County.

Lee said there was more than one camp area, several kitchen areas, two or three tent areas, outlook areas, marijuana drying areas. “It was pretty sophisticated. They had put a lot of work into it.” He estimated the grow had been there, undetected for at least two years, if not more.

Evidence recovered from the camp, including a few firearms, was taken to Las Vegas to be analyzed, “and I suppose in the coming days and weeks, we’ll prob-ably hear a little more about that stuff,” Lee said.