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Illegal dumping a problem in Basin
Klamath Falls Herald and News
"...old log skidding road
that has been completely covered with trash in the
Fremont-Winema National Forest near Chiloquin."
Klamath County forests are some of the most pristine in the state. The Fremont-Winema National Forests are home to many different types of plants and animals, including the ponderosa pine, bald eagle and pumice grape fern.
Unfortunately it's also home to old tires, bullet-riddled refrigerators, empty beer cans, hazardous meth lab waste, spent shotgun shells and a plethora of garbage that never found its way into a dumpster.
Garbage dumping, though illegal, isn't uncommon on private and public land. The Forest Service estimated that 25 tons of garbage is dumped in the Fremont-Winema forests each year. The agency doesn't have the resources to remove it on a regular basis. When clean-ups do occur, taxpayers usually shoulder the costs.
In those forests alone, 40 tons of garbage were removed last year at a cost of $45,000. That didn't include the time and money spent by Forest Service employees to report or investigate the crimes, Forest Service spokeswoman Lisa Swinney said.
The Bureau of Land Management also deals with illegal dumping issues regularly, Swinney said.
That agency handles about 10 cases annually in the Lakeview District, which includes the Klamath Falls Resource Area, and spends $3,000 to $4,500 on each cleanup.
Half of those cases involve hazardous waste, like motor oil, cleaning solvents and meth lab materials.
"I don't know that people realize what a probem it is," Swinney said.
The agencies attempt to catch and prosecute the offenders, but because of their limited resources and the vast area of land they're responsible to protect, dumping is an ongoing problem.
On a tour of dump sites in the Fremont-Winema National Forests, the Herald and News observed several refrigerators, a stove, bags and boxes, tires, car axles and a truck door from New Jersey. Much of the waste had been fragmented by bullets.
"They bring it out here to shoot it up," Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Mark Ditzel said. "This is just as illegal (as dumping), but when it fragments up it's even more of a mess."
Some of the blasted-apart garbage could release chemicals into the soil, ruining it, he said.
"It's stuff like this that's going to get places like this shut down to shooting," Ditzel added.
Federal agencies aren't the only ones that have to clean up others' trash.
The Klamath County Solid Waste Management Department does an average of about two small cleanups per month, said spokesman Tom Crist.
"Out in Bly, somebody dumped off 13 tires and wheels," Crist said. Disposal cost $6 apiece.
"(The department) has to pay the personnel costs and vehicle costs, and the cost of disposal we just eat," he said.
The public can help with the effort to stop illegal dumping, Swinney said. If anyone sees illegal dumping, they can get a description and, if possible, the license numbers of vehicles and contact the authorities.
If the dumping is on public land, the Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service law enforcement is the best agency to contact.
If the reporting occurs after business hours, contact the local 9-1-1 dispatch center, Swinney said. The public should not approach the people doing the dumping.
"This is public land, for everyone to enjoy," Swinney said.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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