By June Lowery
Graham County – Illegal dumping of solid waste, locally known as wildcat dumping, is an ongoing issue in Graham County and a lot occurs on your public lands.
Public lands in Graham County are in remote areas, which makes them prime targets for illegal dumping. “Illegal dumping encourages others to dump at the same sites,“ shared Safford Field Manager Scott Cooke. “It affects the quality of the public land user’s experience and the cleanup costs the American taxpayer a lot of money.”
Recently, the Thatcher High School varsity softball team and staff from the BLM’s Safford Field Office cleaned up an illegal dumpsite on public land located near a Safford housing subdivision. The team included Head Coach Brian McBride, Assistant Coach and BLM Law Enforcement Ranger Clayton Romero, and BLM Recreation Ranger Brian Brinkley. The team collected 1540 pounds of illegally dumped trash.
According to head coach McBride, the team was upset to see the condition of the area. “Public lands belong to all of us and we should take care of them. We are shocked by the amount of trash we picked up and do not understand why anyone just would dump their trash on public lands.”
“The team did a great job helping with the cleanup,” stated Ranger Romero. “It is good to see young people care about the land in their community and want to keep it clean.”
Graham County Sheriff Preston “PJ” Allred echoed his appreciation of the BLM and softball team’s effort to clean up public lands. “It is good to know that we have young people in our community who care and want to see it clean,” said Allred “We all live here in the Gila Valley together, and I would like to have visitors who come through that think it is a nice place to visit and maybe even live.”
Other citizen groups such as the Southeastern Arizona Clean and Beautiful, better known as SEACAB, do a lot to address the county’s illegal dumping issue. The non-profit group, founded by Jay Rasco, locates illegal dumpsites, removes the trash and disposes of it properly. The group conducts at least six cleanups a year on public lands or on private land when a landowner cannot afford to pay. For extra capacity, SEACAB partners with the county probation department to have probationers assist with the cleanups for their community service work requirement. The group also sponsors a “Make a Difference” cleanup each October and is one of the sponsors of the MADD e-Waste Cleanup in which citizens can properly dispose of their broken appliances and electronics free of charge.
“We want people to put litter where it belongs and not trash our desert, city, and river,” said SEACAB Board Chairman Tim Linden.
SEACAB partners with the county on enforcement of dumping regulations. “I think the punishment for dumping on public lands in the county should be much stiffer,” related Linden. “Illegal dumping comes at a great cost to the community, not just for the cost of cleanup, but also how we are perceived by others who visit.” To learn more about SEACAB and opportunities to volunteer, go to SEACAB.org.
To encourage the proper disposal of solid waste, Graham County, in cooperation with the towns of Safford, Thatcher and Pima began a program called “Community Pride Days” in which each April and October the Safford landfill waives the charges for one load of residential trash with no weight limit for a range of dates. In addition, the Safford landfill allows Safford residents, who live within the city limits and bring their ID and a utility bill, to dump one free load of trash each month with the exception of hazardous waste. For more information about the Community Pride Days program, the monthly free residential dumping days, and how to dispose of hazardous waste, contact the Safford landfill at 928-432-4286.