Two weeks ago, Census taker Bill Sparkman died choking, hands and feet bound, hanging naked from a tree in a remote site in Daniel Boone National Forest in Clay County, Ky. Someone had scrawled “fed” on his chest with a felt-tipped pen.

Last week, Sparkman’s death became fodder for more attacks on “right-wing violence.” Bloggers wanted to “send the body to Glenn Beck,” and a Time magazine piece speculated that Sparkman was a victim of the culture of another McCain-voting Southern state.

Now it looks more like Sparkman was yet another victim of illegal drug operations on national forest land, and possibly also a victim of our still open border with Mexico.

Taking the Census in our national forests is dangerous business. Law enforcement sources say meth labs and marijuana plantations are “prevalent” in the area of Sparkman’s death. Did he stumble across a drug operation in the Daniel Boone National Forest? No one is saying for sure, but the locals believe it.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mexican drug gangs operate marijuana plantations in 61 national forests in 16 states, up from three forests in one state (California) 15 years ago. California has suffered the impacts.

August’s devastating wildfire in the Los Padres National Forest, which burned homes in Santa Barbara, turned 88,000 acres into ash. Law enforcement officials say it was probably caused by open cooking fires in one of the extensive pot farms run by Mexican drug gangs that were common in that forest.

This month’s “Station Fire” in the Angeles National Forest has charred more than 250 square miles and burned more than 80 homes and is still burning near Los Angeles. Three known pot plantations have burned, but L.A. authorities have stated that as many as 50 could have been destroyed.

A team of firefighters mopping up hotspots in the fire discovered that new plastic irrigation lines had been installed next to burnt out lines, an indication that a pot plantation was being re-established even before the fire was put out. They retreated and called in law enforcement officers who arrested a Mexican national armed with a .22 rifle.

Across California, more than 4 million pot plants have been discovered on public land so far this year.

Similar stories from other national forests fill the press.

Visitors to the Ouachita National Forest (1.8 million acres in Oklahoma and Arkansas) are warned to “be vigilant and aware of your surroundings” due to the presence of “dopers” in the forest. Three separate pot farms were discovered this summer in the Pike National Forest in Colorado’s Front Range.

The U.S. Forest Service reports that in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, federal agents raided 487 pot farms on Forest Service land, seized 138 firearms and made 369 arrests on felony drug charges.

The big operations are run by Mexican drug gangs, who, according to the FBI, have interconnected drug distribution networks in at least 200 U.S. cities and towns. The workers on these pot plantations are illegals from Mexico who live and work in primitive conditions in violation of all workplace safety laws, in a modern day version of slavery.

These pot plantations also devastate the natural environment the national forest is meant to preserve. In some cases, farms have been found where the land has been terraced. Often pesticide and chemical fertilizers are used which have been banned on legal farms in the U.S. Trash is often the first clue to law enforcement of the presence of a pot plantation.

Where are the environmentalist groups that fought so hard to preserve these lands and the natural habitat? Who fought for wilderness designations to stop roads, oil drilling, mines, harvesting lumber, etc., to preserve the natural environment? We the People have been restricted in the use of our own forest lands which are now being exploited and destroyed by illegals.

Where’s the Sierra Club? How about the Natural Resources Defense Council? If you or I were farming anything in a national forest, it’s a fair bet that we would be arrested in a heartbeat and pilloried relentlessly in the press. Can you see the headline? “Farmers exploit and destroy our precious habitat.” Why the silence when the farmers are illegal Mexican drug gangs?

Our open border with Mexico has been changing American society in a number of unpleasant ways. These fires, these destroyed national forest lands, and maybe even Bill Sparkman’s death, may just be the latest way.

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