Late last month, the U.S. Forest Service in Region 1, which includes Montana, circulated an internal safety advisory alerting staff to a rash of "one-pot" methamphetamine cookers discovered on national forest lands. The cookers—a cheap and dirty way to manufacture meth—are volatile and carcinogenic.
"This is the first time such devices have been found in some of our areas," the Forest Service says. "But the one-pot labs have been popular in other parts of the country and urban areas and have apparently made it here."
The one-pot method, dubbed "shake-and-bake," uses cold pills, plastic tubes, liter soda bottles and a host of chemicals such as hydrochloric acid to mix up small batches of meth. Shake-and-bake has been a rising trend for years in other parts of the country—particularly the southwest. Missoula County Sheriff's Detective Scott Newell says his office has seen two or three one-pot cases in the last year. Recently, the Forest Service has found as many as five one-pots in a single weekend in western Montana, prompting them to alert state and local officials to the situation.
Forest Service spokesman Phil Sammon says the one-pot cookers are easily identifiable as they give off a powerful ammonia scent. The bottles should not be handled, he adds, since acids used in the meth-making process can cause serious burns. Carcinogens can also leach into the skin, causing health problems.
"These cookers cost about $1,500 each to clean up," Sammon says.
The Forest Service and other agencies have long noted concerns over meth manufacturers utilizing the remoteness of the region's forests for their operations. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Captain Jeff Darrah says he hasn't noticed any increased activity on state land recently that's connected to meth cookers. But his officers have been trained by the Montana Drug Enforcement Agency to handle such situations, he says. "We're always on the lookout for that."