Illegal dumping creates hazards on forest lands
Spring snowmelt revealed an increased amount of illegal dumping on National Forest lands during the past winter, according to Officer Gary Barnett of the U.S. Forest Service at the Truckee Ranger District.
In recent weeks, Barnett has found household appliances, construction debris, abandoned vehicles and tires in addition to common trash.
“There are a lot of problems associated with illegal dumping,” said Barnett. “In addition to the obvious unsightly nature of debris, there is the potential for soil and water pollution, and hazards for humans and animals.”
Not only does it take away from the natural beauty of Forest Service lands and create pollution, he said, but dumping also costs the Forest Service a lot of money.
“It’s very expensive for the Forest Service to remove literally tons of junk that people have selfishly thrown onto our public lands. The money we have to spend in cleaning up this mess is money that’s not available for campgrounds or trail improvements,” said Barnett.
Hazardous materials removal can cost tens of thousands of dollars per occurrence, he said.
The Nevada County Code Enforcement Department and the Placer County Environmental Health Department help with junk removal, especially vehicle abatement, said Barnett. But the dumping problem is bad right now, and causing the Forest Service to take money away from other programs to pay for the removal.
Illegal dumping has increased in the past few weeks for a variety of reasons, said Barnett. These include formerly closed roads that are now open in remote areas, increased dump fees and plain irresponsibility and laziness of some area residents.
Abandoned vehicles are a big problem because they are more difficult to remove. According to Barnett, the Forest Service removed approximately 75 vehicles from the Tahoe National Forest last year.
“Cars end up all over the place,” said Barnett.
He identified the Prosser reservoir area as one of the worst for illegal dumping. Recently, he has removed numerous appliances, such as washers and dryers, and abandoned camper shells and vehicles near the reservoir.
Barnett is aggressively pursuing criminal prosecution of illegal dumpers. Penalties for illegal dumping can include up to six months imprisonment and $5,000 in fines. They are much more severe for dumping hazardous materials, he said.
“Sometimes I can find identifying information with the material, and on occasion, witnesses contact me with information about what they’ve seen, which is very helpful,” said Barnett.
Recently, he was contacted by a fisherman who saw someone abandon a vehicle. The witness was able to provide identifying information, and the suspect was charged with illegal dumping.
If anyone has information on illegal dumping, call the Forest Service at (530) 587-3558.
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