Old tires

When illegal behavior continues unabated, odds are the legal limit of the punishment is insufficient to serve as a deterrent. That’s why scoundrels continue to dump trash in our national forests, an offense against all citizens who own the forests and pay for their upkeep. As well it is an offense against nature, spoiling the beauty of these lands we set aside to protect.

It isn’t just an old appliance or some garbage. Recent illegal dumping now under investigation in the Cherokee National Forest includes two areas of the Unaka Ranger District in Washington County — off Horse Cove Gap and Ramsey Creek Road south of Johnson City — used to illegally dispose of about 300 to 500 tires each. That points to a garage. You can help catch the offenders if you’ve noticed a pile of tires suddenly missing from a garage you use.

“It is a shame that tires and other household trash are being carelessly discarded in the forest,” Unaka District Ranger Leslie Morgan said in a news release. “Tire dump sites can cause many problematic areas. Besides being unsightly and non-biodegradable, disease-carrying rodents and insects are attracted to these sites.”

“They also pose an increased risk for forest fires,” Morgan added. “This is very serious, and we want to stop these kinds of activities. We all own our national forests. As an owner, you have a stake in what happens in the forest.”

The dump sites are approximately a quarter to one-half acre in size.

Dumping on national forest land is but a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not more than $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six months. This offense should be reclassified. Blatant disregard of our beautiful national forests should be more than a misdemeanor.

In February, officials with the Daniel Boone National Forest were telling residents of Laurel County, Kentucky to stop dumping their trash in the forest after various sites were found, including vandalism.

The trash included household items, discarded furniture, hot water heaters and old rusty vehicles. Officials said the dumping often occurs over a cliff or at the end of a remote roadway, and sometimes trash is dumped along roads in plain sight. More than a million visitors come to the Daniel Boone National Forest each year to enjoy outdoor recreation and the scenic beauty of nature. They should not be greeted with trash.

Also in February, an alert resident noticed a flatbed trailer full of tires driving into the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida and called deputies, who found the trailer minus the tires. They had been unloaded into the forest in broad daylight, the two men arrested seemingly undeterred by a misdemeanor charge.

Illegal dumping in a national forest should be a felony offense with increased fines and jail time. That’s the only way to stop these problems.

If you have information about the dump sites in Washington County or see someone dumping tires or any debris in our national or state forests, call your local sheriff’s department.