Western Md. forest aims to curb drug activity

Amid the oaks and hickories of the Green Ridge State Forest, a 46,000-acre tract of wooded slopes and stream valleys in Western Maryland, all may not be as idyllic and remote from the ills of modern civilization as geography might suggest.

In a statement, the Maryland Natural Resources Police said it charged 10 people with drug violations on a recent Saturday. In addition the agency said, during the first nine months of this year, it made more than 120 arrests on charges of illegal drug use.

In response, Natural Resources Police said, it will begin an enhanced enforcement effort to curtail illegal drug activity in the forest, about a two-hour drive from the Baltimore area.

"We are committed to providing a safe family environment and will continue this joint proactive law enforcement measure to ensure the safety of the patrons to the state's public lands," said the superintendent, Col. George F. Johnson IV.

Drugs seized at the state forest on a recent Saturday, according to the agency, included marijuana, cocaine, hashish and Ecstasy, as well as illegal prescription drugs.

The problems at Green Ridge, in Allegany County, appear to reflect difficulties that have arisen in government forests across the nation. The very seclusion that makes them appealing refuges for city dwellers has apparently made them havens for illegal activity, according to government and news reports.

Much of the activity reported nationwide has involved the cultivation of marijuana. In some cases, it has been reported, the density of foliage that suggests the unspoiled wilderness has provided shelter for illegal activity.

Maryland's forest service, an arm of the Department of Natural Resources, describes Green Ridge as one of the largest of Maryland's state forests with "exciting recreation opportunities in an undeveloped wild setting."

Noting that autumn is an especially busy time in the forest, drawing visitors to hunt, camp, ride all-terrain vehicles and enjoy the scenery, the NRP said law enforcement patrols, including some using dogs, will be active to deter the presence of illegal drugs.

The NRP said it would be joined by members of the state police, the county police and the state corrections department.

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