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Eclectic music, quirky talk shows and announcements about lost dogs and loose cattle are common fare on rural public radio stations.

But in southern Humboldt County, Garberville's KMUD provides one more public service — announcements about law enforcement officials on their way to drug busts, like this recent but undated report.

"Around 9:40 a.m. this morning, a large gray helicopter was seen taking off from the Garberville airport, apparently heading toward Reed Mountain. The occupants were fully dressed in combat gear, and the convoy of cars they arrived in were unmarked."

The message went out to 20,000 listeners tuned to 91.1FM, 88.3FM and 90.3FM in Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties, which together make up Northern California's notorious marijuana-producing Emerald Triangle.

KMUD's unusual reports date back to 1983, when an all-out land and air siege on pot-growing hippies was launched in southern Humboldt County. State, federal and local agents waging the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, as it was called, were joined in 1990 by military troops enlisted for the Bush-era "Operation Green Sweep."

Radio host Anna Hamilton remembers helicopters flying so low that people on the ground could see the occupants' faces and guns. Livestock and horses were literally frightened to death, and dogs were shot, said Hamilton, a long-time Garberville resident and musician.

It was "an apocalypse-style invasion," said Charley Custer, a freelance magazine writer from Chicago who came to Garberville in 1983 to write about the "hippie Arcadia" and never left.

Terrorized residents who felt their civil rights had been trampled during the operations mobilized to fight back. They formed the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project, which initiated the broadcasts and sued to force aircraft to obey federal aviation regulations.

Over the years, pot enforcement has mellowed as law enforcers turned their focus away from hippies and toward large-scale growers on public lands. By doing so, they increased their statewide seizures from 64,579 plants in 1983 to 4.4 million in 2009, 75 percent of them on public land.

In Northern California, more marijuana is now seized in Lake County than Humboldt County, but KMUD's law enforcement sighting reports continue. Spokesmen say they now function more as traffic warnings than drug alerts.

Law officials have known about and grudgingly accepted the reports for years.

"I've heard it my entire life. I know it's part of the community," said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman, who grew up in Garberville, population 2,600.

But now he would like it to stop. Busting large-scale growers has become more dangerous in recent years, and he worries KMUD's tip-offs will result in armed confrontations.

"We're seeing more influence of Mexican growers than we've ever seen before," Allman said. "Those guys have guns. Last year, we had one of our agents shot at."

So far KMUD representatives have been cordial but unconvinced.

Their official response? Those convoys represent potential road hazards as they plow down narrow, winding roads.

"The roads, once you go east or west off Highway 101, are pretty gnarly," said Marianne Knorzer, who moved to Humboldt County three years ago to become KMUD's program director. Law enforcement sightings are reported along with other road hazards, fires and floods, she said.

And because they don't pinpoint locations, "No one has ever gotten hurt by any of this activity," said station manager Brenda Starr.

Knorzer also questioned whether marijuana eradication has become any more dangerous than it previously was.

Humboldt County Sheriff's spokeswoman Brenda Godsey doesn't have statistics indicating an increase, but she said "the danger is present. It's real."

State officials say 89 weapons were seized last year during marijuana garden raids, and those figures don't include weapons confiscated by local law enforcement officers.

"They've gotten more violent in that they take a more aggressive stance," said Michelle Gregory, a spokeswoman for the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting. "Before, they'd run off and try to escape."

Allman said he'll keep trying to convince KMUD that its broadcasts actually endanger the public. But he has no plans to force the issue.

"My intent is to figure out a solution," Allman said.

You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or glenda.anderson@pressdemocrat.com.