Posted: Tuesday, April 22nd 2014 at 6:26pm
Forest Service calls for public's help in dealing with garbage
GAINESVILLE – When you think of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, what are some of the images that immediately come to mind? Rushing waterfalls, scenic vistas, clear streams, miles of trails, tranquil spots perfect for camping and picnicking?
All of these things can be found on Georgia’s National Forests, but you can also find many places where individuals and businesses have dumped their garbage.
“Littering and dumping of garbage on national forest land is a real problem,” explains Jeff Gardner, Conasauga District Ranger. Items can range from the most basic household trash to washing machines, couches, tires and even boats. “You name it and we've seen it,” said Gardner. “This is a huge issue and we want the public to know we need their help to deter future littering and also to assist in cleaning-up existing dump sites.”
Several local groups and civic organizations have answered the call for help and held clean-up days over the last year. One group making a positive impact is Leadership Murray, an organization dedicated to building a stronger community.
Russell Witherow, President of Leadership Murray, is passionate about this subject. “Volunteer clean-ups are essential to the well-being of our public lands,” he says. “Limited resources do not always allow us to catch, prevent, or even deter someone from dumping on our lands,” continues Witherow. “Those variables are out of our control, but what we can do is make a difference in the areas that others have abused.”
Dumping on the national forest is a Federal offense and if caught by Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers or other officials, the offenders will receive a ticket. Last year Forest Service Law Enforcement officers wrote almost 500 tickets for littering or dumping on the national forest. Depending on the type of trash and how much is dumped, fines range up to $5,000 and the possibility of six months in jail.
Although there is no easy answer, community involvement is key to changing the way people think about littering and dumping on public lands. According to Witherow, “All who enjoy the use of our national forests should feel a responsibility to ensure that they are healthy for our enjoyment today and for generations to come.”
District Ranger Gardner agrees. “We realize dumping is a problem and we are working to do something about it.” Gardner continues, “With the help of groups like Leadership Murray, along with Forest Service Law Enforcement and the people who cherish the national forest as an extension of their own backyards, we hope we can make a change in the attitude and thinking of people who dump on the national forest.”
For more information on how to get involved with clean-up efforts on the national forest, contact the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests office at (770) 297-3000 or visit the website at www.fs.usda.gov/conf. Smartphone and tablet users can also view news and events, including volunteer opportunities, by using the forest’s free mobile app.
Download the app by visiting their website..
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