Column: Take pride in what we have: Don't turn Mohave County into a dump

Many Mohave County residents do not realize they reside within a postcard.

Thousands trek here annually to experience what some local residents take for granted. These visitors travel here because of the weather, scenic mountains, the beautiful desert, excellent camping and fishing, sightseeing and quaint shops.

Tourists bring millions of dollars to our local economy, and if it weren't for the tourist industry, many of our small shop owners probably would go out of business.

It's paradoxical that even though we reside in a very picturesque area, some residents treat the Mohave County lands as their personal dumping ground.

Proof of this can be seen daily while driving the highways, the dirt roads that stretch throughout our county, on the public lands managed by Bureau of Land Management, Arizona State Trust Lands and even in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a U.S. National Park.

Fast food containers, baby diapers, old tires, the paper cup that held yesterday's latte, beer and soda cans, water bottles and other trash are haphazardly thrown along the sides of roads and vacant lots. Drinking beer in vehicles and then tossing out the empties is a big problem, as evidenced by the number of containers. Not only is it pollution; it is very much illegal to drink and drive!

No, I'm not saying that all trash alongside Mohave County roadways is deposited only by residents. Some visitors traveling through our area toss stuff out of car windows instead of using an in-vehicle litterbag or waiting to place their trash in containers at gas stations or other appropriate receptacles.

Litterbugs are extremely lazy people and really don't care about our environment. I personally wonder what their yards look like.

Why do these residents spend more time and money purchasing gas to drive out into the middle of nowhere to illegally dump? It would cost less if they took their junk and trash to Gambi Disposal of Arizona Landfill, 7300 Mineral Park Rd. in Golden Valley; Lake Havasu Landfill at Highway 95 and Chenoweth Dr. in Lake Havasu City; or the Mohave Valley Landfill at Highway 95 and El Rodeo Rd. in Mohave Valley.

Illegal dumping creates an environmental eyesore and victimizes property owners who sometimes end up paying big bucks to remove the junk and trash.

Mohave County isn't taking the litter problem sitting down as a fact of life. The Mohave County Parks Department has a program called Environmental Rural Area Cleanup Enforcement - ERACE - a multi-faceted program that goes after the illegal dumpers. If convicted of illegally dumping garbage in county areas, commonly referred to as "wild-cat dumping," you could spend time in jail and pay a hefty fine.

Local city and county governments do not have the funds to hire hundreds of people to actively search for illegal dumpers. That's where you come in.

If you happen to see someone illegally dumping trash, take pride in our beautiful lands and get involved. Write down the description of the person or persons illegally dumping, the description of their vehicle, the vehicle's license plate number, the location where the illegal dumping occurred and the time and date of the incident.

Never attempt to contact or confront the person or persons illegally dumping.

Call the following agencies if you spot illegal dumping within Mohave County:

• Within Lake Mead National Recreation Area, call the Lake Mohave Ranger Station at (928) 754-3272;

• On state lands, call the Arizona State Land Department, Northern Region Office at (928) 774-1425.

• On county and unincorporated areas, call E.R.A.C.E. officials at (928) 715-0915;

• On lands managed by BLM, call the Kingman BLM Field Office at (928) 718-3700, the Lake Havasu City BLM Field Office at (928) 505-1200 or the BLM Central Dispatch at (623) 580-5515;

• Within Kingman City limits, call the city police at (928) 753-2191;

• Within Bullhead City limits, call the city police at (928) 763-9200;

• Within Lake Havasu City limits, call the city police at (928) 855-5775;

• If you are not sure what agency has jurisdiction, call the Mohave County Sheriff's Office at (928) 753-0753;

• And if you believe the offense is serious enough and possibly involves toxic waste, call 911 or Mohave Silent Witness at (888) 227-8780.

E.R.A.C.E. also assists residents with community-improvement projects. They, in cooperation with other local and county public works, highway and sanitation departments, are more than willing to assist residents interested in cleaning up their neighborhoods. The various departments may provide large dumpsters during the community clean-up project, even send a truck to pick up the bagged litter or big items and provide paint to cover up graffiti.

Both city and county governments also schedule "free trash" days when residents are able to get rid of large junk items, trash and toxic waste such as old cans of paint at a specific location at no charge to them.

BLM officials consider littering and illegal dumping a very serious problem. The maximum punishment an individual can receive under federal law for an illegal dumping incident, which might include toxic waste, on BLM lands is 12 months in jail and a $100,000 fine.

Twenty-eight separate investigations were conducted by BLM investigators last year. Of that number, citations were only issued for two cases, because BLM officials were unable to determine who actually did the illegal dumping for the other 26 incidents.

Many people go out on BLM lands to target practice and that isn't against the law. But what is illegal and is deemed as littering is leaving their empty cartridges, targets and boxes the ammo came in scattered when they depart.

If an individual is a hunter or fisherman and litters by leaving their spent cartridges and other litter on public hunting and fishing areas, they can lose their right to secure a license (hunting and fishing) to take and possess wildlife for a period up to five years.

There is one easy solution to the problem of trash in the areas managed by BLM, which is actually our public land. Take a large plastic bag when hiking, camping or just traveling through BLM areas. Bring out your trash and some that has been dropped by other visitors. It doesn't take that much effort to bend over and pick up those pieces of paper, water bottles, trash and beer cans someone else thoughtlessly left behind.

But the good news is that our county doesn't have as bad a litter problem as other counties. That's because many of our local residents donate their time to pick up trash. This is evidenced by the signs that dot the sides of our highways indicating a stretch of highway is cleaned by a particular group, company or an individual family.

Anyone interested in the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Adopt-A-Highway Program should contact the Kingman ADOT District Office at (928) 681-6019. Most city municipalities also have similar programs and if you are interested in participating in a road clean-up program, contact your city officials.

Mohave County also has a program wherein residents can "adopt" a two-mile stretch of a county road and keep it trash free. Contact the Mohave County Road Department at (928) 757-0905.

If we don't take the initiative on litter control and illegal dumping, tourists might stop spending their hard-earned money here, because nobody wants to vacation in a dump.