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Permission is granted to copy and forward the following article by the Pioneer Press. 

Pioneer Press
Fort Jones, CA
May 26, 2004
Page 1, Column 2

Salmon River Marijuana Growers Exposed

• Salmon River Marijuana Growers Association:  Narcotics Trafficking Organization or Environmental Radicals?

By John Martinez

Special Opinion Report
With contributions from Daniel Webster and Barry Clausen

The following special report is based on interviews and research
conducted over the course of five years. For the safety of those we
interview, the Pioneer Press has chosen to not identify our sources. The
quotes within this report are from interviews of those with intimate
knowledge of the Salmon River Marijuana Growers Association as well as
local and federal law enforcement.

General Overview

The Salmon River Marijuana Growers Association’s (SRMG) initial
structure and philosophy were aligned to “communal” and anti-government
mindsets predominant within the 1960s and '70s student and anti-war
protest movement communities.

When founded, SRMG was allegedly marketed to local “hippies” and leftist
separatists as a cooperative intending to mitigate and offset plantation
losses due to theft and interdiction efforts.  The overarching goal of
the organization was to establish “expatriate communities of leftwing
radicals” within the U.S. itself.

The antecedent organization to the SRMG was the Salmon River Concerned Citizens. Peter Brucker was in the center of that group.  Locals bought into the concept of stabilizing production and mitigating plant theft
and thus political inertia was captured.  The SRMG at that time,
mid-70s, was known publicly as the “Salmon River Concerned Citizens.”
Through the citizens group, Brucker allegedly recruited ideological
adherents from the anti-government environmental movement to form the
group’s leadership. The SRMG quickly grew through the late 70s,
allegedly, due to Brucker’s charismatic and spiritual leadership and a
budding relationship with local sheriff deputies and Forest Service

By the early 80s, the SRMG was less a cooperative and more a
“clearinghouse providing protection for local growers” in an exchange
for a percentage of gross production.  By the mid-80s, “insular
operational layers were fully integrated into the organization’s overall
structure” thereby protecting the group’s leadership from surveillance
and arrest. 

By the late 80s, the SRMG had consolidated its control over
the Salmon River region and was not only providing protection, but also
controlled who grew and who did not grow within their protective area.
In the late-80s, the ideological tenets of the group publicly surfaced
through a group calling itself the Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA).
Brucker and Felice Pace played key roles in founding KFA and continue to
be involved in the process.   Many KFA board members and affiliates are
connected “to the drug trade and the radical movements” originating in
the late 60s and early 70s.

During the past “16 years SRMG has grown into the region’s most
sophisticated and well-connected narcotics and policy-making
organization.”  SRMG is fully integrated with “large coastal
wholesalers” and regional and “statewide protection rackets.”  

SRMG is an alleged multi-tiered trafficking organization whereby controlling
members of the SRMG “do not directly participate in the day-to-day
operational” aspects of producing and distributing.

The SRMG is effectively an “extended drug protection and laundering
ring, a policy-consulting group creating haven-like growing conditions
for the marijuana trade, and provides ‘legitimate’ employment and
‘volunteer’ opportunities that mask the movement of drug-related
personnel” in and out of the Salmon River corridor.

SRMG members control a non-profit corporation, Salmon River Restoration
Council established in 1992, which allegedly enables the group to
achieve the above operational, policy and support functions of the
regional drug trade.  The non-profit employs and works almost
exclusively with drug users, dealers and growers thus creating rings of
protection throughout the river corridor.

The non-profit controlled by SRMG sub-contracts almost exclusively with
a private corporation, owned by Jim Villaponteux, named Salmon Mountain
Forestry.  Salmon Mountain Forestry works with many who are tied to the
drug industry “creating further safeguards.”

It is through this company and another owned by Villaponteux that
allegedly most of the irrigation piping and supplies are purchased for the

SRMG exerts “tremendous influence” over the Karuk Tribe through its
Department of Natural Resources at the expense of the vast majority of
non-drug related Native Americans.  This “influence intentionally
extends well beyond the Aboriginal Territory of the Karuk Indians, which is along the mid-Klamath River area. 

The Shasta Nations are potential litigants” if it is proven that a
“narcotics-related conspiracy” exists involving “usurpation and
intentional territorial falsification of Native homelands.” 

The situation has the potential “to explode the myths of the Democrat Party”
and their friends “within the environmental community.”
“The vast majority of the Karuk Tribe are very decent, dignified and
good people.”  However, through “fear of being victimized by violence
and withholding of financial and social services assistance by key
tribal leaders, nobody wants to push the issues.  People get hurt down
river if they open their mouths.” 

According to Native sources, a very
serious signal was communicated by the death of a Native American after
he communicated to state law enforcement their concerns regarding
potential financial fraud.

The most significant shift in the SRMG’s “operational paradigm within
the past three years” is its collaboration with Mexican organizations
that local law enforcement recognizes as “cartel” groups.  SRMG’s
alleged networking with Mexican nationals is reputedly a by-product of a
longstanding relationship between a newcomer to the Salmon River and
SRMG principals.

The newcomer is known by several names or aliases.  The newcomer
purchased property located on White’s Gulch approximately five miles
east of Sawyers Bar on the Salmon River.  The location was to provide “manicuring and meth super lab production.”  Law enforcement has “visited the location, thus
tipping the principals to possible surveillance” and thereby prematurely
alerting said collection of individuals.  His arrival to the Salmon
River coincides with the incidence of Mexican nationals operating in the
SRMG protective areas.

He is known to locals “as extremely dangerous” but “untouchable” by
local law enforcement.

Today, SRMG represents the most influential group operating within the
Klamath River region - more powerful than even “the Forest Service” in
some minds.  SRMG relationships range from radical Earth First! militias
to nationally recognized political figures to Native groups that have
publicly vowed to blow up dams on the Klamath if they are not taken out
by the government.

Local Control

The depth, breadth and level of influence wielded by the Salmon River
Marijuana Grower’s Association (SRMG) over Siskiyou County is best
described by one of their own associates.  Immediately after Siskiyou County Sheriff
Rick Riggins was elected, shock waves were sent throughout the regional
drug industry.

“These guys’ (SRMG) worst nightmare is Riggins.  The whole thing breaks
apart.  The [statewide] players won’t have airtight protection that
Riggins won’t bring in the Feds.”

Immediately after Riggin’s successful election to Siskiyou County
Sheriff, a confidential informant stated for the record “they are going
to ruin Riggins by taking away his money.”  The informant indicated that
both county and state interests would squeeze Riggin’s budget to make
him look ineffective and “ruin him.”

According to a former resident of the Salmon River with close ties to
Peter Brucker, reputed spiritual founder of SRMG, this “guy (Brucker)
really believes in the Mother Earth and all that stuff.  He’s heavy into
praying to the Earth.” 

According to the same informant, Felice Pace is
the one that has the top political connections to both state and local
politicos and major “mafia players.”  According to this source, Pace
controlled the past Sheriff Charlie Byrd  and currently calls the shots
at the DA’s office. 

“They don’t touch Felice if they know what’s good
for them.  They [SRMG] are using the pot trade to structure and finance
movements.  These guys are powerful.  These guys are using their cash to
influence [policy] and buy off people.  They got people on the payroll
and big players make sure they don’t get pinched.”

According to informants, countless complaints and drug-related tips have
been given to the sheriff’s department over the years and nothing has
happened to SRMG principals David Jacques, Peter Brucker, Jim
Villaponteux and Les Harling.

In the 2002 grow season very specific tips were provided to both the
California Highway Patrol Northern Division and the Siskiyou County
Sheriff Department regarding a large grow in the Salmon Mountains
located on the Blue Ridge between the Godfrey and Blue Ridge Ranches.
The grow was roughly 7,500 plants, as discovered by the sheriff

“What concerns the law enforcement community is surveillance was not
established [on the grow].  The local jurisdiction has used cameras and
human surveillance on much smaller items.  There were months to
prepare.”  The large grow, according to a source located in Arcata, was
allegedly the work of the owners of the two ranches where the grow was
found, Peter Brucker and David Jacques.  The evening the plants were
“eradicated” by the sheriff department an eyewitness claims that a
moving van loaded with “pot took off from the Godfrey and went on down
river to get cleaned (manicured) on the coast.”

The grow was reported to CHP representatives early in June in 2002.
Shortly thereafter, informants  underwent harassment and intimidation by
law enforcement representatives.  The events that transpired after the
grow was relayed to the CHP “may take down top players within the

Things may be changing however under a new leadership.

“Last year (grow season 2003) they got hit hard.  This mother (Riggins)
ain’t playin’ no games.”

After one midnight in 2003, the morning prior to a large raid in Sawyers
Bar, the Pioneer Press and an independent journalist observed Felice
Pace returning from the Salmon River over the top of Etna Summit.
Sources close to the Salmon River have “no doubt he was tipping them” of
the impending raid.

A Bigger Picture

The influence “Pace and his friends have at their disposal is

When leadership in the Karuk Tribe began “to lean away” from SRMG,
Pace’s friends allegedly “called in a heavy hitter” to work for the

According to sources, the “heavy hitter” was a Democrat activist
from the San Francisco Bay Area named Lori Brown.  According to high
level sources within San Francisco’s business community, Lori Brown “is
closely affiliated with leading Bay Area Democrats” that have “very
untidy and soiled laundry to hide from public view.”

Brown was an activist for the 2000 Gore campaign and whose ties are
“close to Willie Brown and who runs with Barbara Boxer’s people.” 

Ms. Brown’s alleged role was to “take out” the emerging anti-drug and
financial accountability movement within the Karuk Tribe.  One must
wonder why such a high level and connected Democrat would allegedly want to counter anti-drug and financial accountability leadership in a Tribe.

The CHP “has caught their tail feathers in this trap” by allowing
“blatant violations to occur to private citizens.”  The “rank and file
have little if any idea” as to the role “some within leadership” are
playing to “hide abuse and failing to uphold the public trust.”  Law
enforcement in the state is “sorely in need of clean leadership starting
from the top.”

The Northern Division of the California Highway Patrol is a “prime
objective for organized crime.  The geographic overlay of the Division
(Northern Division) correlates to very critical narcotics sources.  If
your hypothesis is on the money, and it looks that way, and radical
groups including gangs are being fed by these sources (narcotics) we
should step up federal law enforcement involvement.”

Sources both in law enforcement and at the political level agreed that
“exposing [SRMG] and the [Karuk Tribe] would lead right up to the
Democrat Statehouse.”

According to Bay Area sources, the late, former Sheriff Byrd was too
closely connected to Willie “Brown for the health of major Democrats.”

Byrd’s tremendous popularity is a concern for those who have studied
that part of the state.  “His support by local leaders is suspicious and
his support by leading political figures is sobering.”

According to sources, Byrd’s statements given in a civil case tipped the
scales against Byrd and his protection was stripped. 

Riggins, as sheriff, represents “a significant departure from past political
entanglements and will undoubtedly frustrate major players.”

Highly connected Democrats have “without concern for the law, swept
massive political and drug corruption in Siskiyou County under the
carpet to protect friends.”

Regarding the Webster Case

According to a well-placed retired federal law enforcement intelligence
source, “[Daniel] Webster is the tip of an iceberg.  The local DA is too
fearful of prosecuting a potential Pace conspiracy, Bill [Attorney
General Lockyer] can’t disembowel his own party and Feds are cautious to
go after only finite cases. 

Given the delicate political situation with
the mayoral race in Tijuana, there is no way the Democrats are going to
allow [SRMG] or Pace to be touched. 

Bill [Lockyer] is safer being known
as a gay basher than risking exposing Pace and his associates. 

This thing could easily unearth Janet Reno’s dealings in 1999 when she went
against the intelligence community’s assessment of major Mexican
traffickers operating from the safety of the Mexican Federal

“[AG Prosecutor Jo] Graves was assigned to Webster for if anything she
has too much to lose.  She’s got no choices, that’s not to say she’s
dirty.  A young upstart might not be willing to mortgage their future
over this mess or might go public.   If the liberal establishment was in
an uproar over the rumors the CIA was involved in LA [cocaine
distribution], imagine the abandonment from the party if they
[Democrats] are caught running pot into minority venues. 

The Democrats are sitting on a powder keg and Webster is an unknown, he’s the burning ember in the wind.” 

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