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Former Short Mountain pot farm to become preserve
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A nearly 1,000-acre farm on Short Mountain that was once home to a convicted marijuana importer was dedicated as a protected wildlife area last week.The six-year battle to have the land, once seized from owner Jeff Young after he was convicted for distributing the illegal weed, has culminated in the first case of property seized in a drug bust becoming protected park land.The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will oversee all activity on the property.The negotiations leading to the dedication of the land as protected property included several governmental and law enforcement agencies, conservation groups and nonprofit organizations.The move is a rare occurrence, as seized land generally put up for auction to help recover funds for law enforcement.Authorities shut down the drug distribution operation run by Young and Morris Roller in 2006, claiming that the men had successfully moved pot at the farm for more than a decade.Young, 55, is now serving 18 years in prison, and Roller, 59, is serving 16 years.The push to conserve the property came soon after the two were arrested, and was helped along when the men entered into a plea agreement in which they forfeited half of their acreage.The TWRA and the Tennessee Heritage Conservation Fund approved $154,000 to buy 10 parcels in 2008, and the deeds were signed on April 10.The deeds specify that the property must be kept as open space with public access.The largest tract borders the 1,000-acre Pea Ridge Wildlife Management Area, and will become part of that preserve.The new acquisition means that more than 4,000 acres are now being preserved on Pea Ridge.