A large marijuana grow from 2006 that covered nearly 1,000 wooded acres was dedicated as a protected wildlife area in the Tennessee mountains. This is the first time in state history that land seized in a drug raid has become state park, and only the fourth time ever in the country, according to the US department of Justice.
The land stewardship was handed over to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency who will oversee hunting, hiking and protecting the wildlife on the acreage that took years to clean up.
The land agreement was a complicated deal involving more than a dozen government departments, law enforcement agencies, conservation groups and nonprofits joined in negotiations that led to the land agreement. The standard outcome for seized property is typically an auction to recoup money for police.
The land once belonged to Jeffory Carl Young and Morris Roller who operated what federal agents called a decade of multistate marijuana distribution. Young who is now 55 is serving 18 years in prison and Roller who is 59 is serving 16 years.
The land deal was proposed by conservationists who found out the land might go to developers, and Short Mountain, where the acreage is located is the home to the headwaters of three rivers that supply drinking water and habitat wildlife in the area. The conservation effort began soon after the men were arrested. The Tennessee Heritage Conservation Fund approved $154,000 to buy the parcels of land in 2008, and the deeds were finally signed in April, and they include language that say the land must be kept as open space with public access.