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The Costs of Illegal Dumping on Public Lands

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Updated: Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:38:37 MST

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - In 2013 more than 100,000 pounds of garbage was dumped illegally on public lands in Western Colorado. That's a sharp increase from the year before, which only yielded half of that number.

"It's really no different than dumping it on your neighbors lawn," said Christopher Joyner, a public affairs specialist for the Bureau of Land Management.

"This was a camper that was abandoned on public lands, with a lot of garbage inside of it. About a week after we found it we came out and it was blown up. Someone put some kind of an explosive charge inside it and detonated it," said Frank Stepleton, a law enforcement ranger for the BLM.

Rangers like Stepleton look for clues that are left behind, "Anything that we can find that might somehow link us to the owner of the property, it may or may not help us, we don't know."

Items dumped range from illegal, "Waste from meth labs, waste from marijuana cultivation," said Stepleton.

To bizarre, "Human waste that was left in five gallon buckets, we do have sexual toys that are left in the desert," Joyner said.

"We can look at fingerprints, we can look at DNA, we can look for property that has their name on it," said Stepleton.

And when resident dump illegally, taxpayers foot the bill.

"It could cost well over $100 to deal with, or even thousands if it's hazardous," said Joyner.

Among what was dumped during the 2013 fiscal year: 26 refrigerators, 50 TVs and VCRs and more than 300 tires.

Joyner said, "For those people that are going to choose to do that, I would like for them to know that we're not going to be writing warning tickets, we are going to be pursuing them, we're going to use every manner that we can to find out who they are, and we will prosecute."

Every matched piece of DNA and every receipt linked to a perpetrator, is a small victory for those who stand up for public lands.

Anyone who witnesses illegal dumping is urged to try and get a description of the suspect, or take a picture if possible. Also, try to get a license plate number.

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