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PHOENIX -- Nine years after an illegal marijuana-growing operation was found in one of the state's most rugged and remote country near Strawberry, Fossil Springs Wilderness has been restored to its natural condition.

About 20,000 pot plants were found in 2005 and eradicated but it took until now to come up with the funds to remove 3,000 pounds of irrigation tubing and other garbage from the wilderness area. Clean-up required helicopters to haul out the load.

Heather Noel, a Forest Service spokeswoman, said 150 pounds of trash was removed, gathered up by volunteers with Arizona Wilderness Coalition earlier this month.

"You don't normally have helicopters fly in a wilderness area but we would've done a lot of damage with that many people getting the garbage out of there," Noel said.

Jim Cross, Reporter

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