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The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) launched a year-long pilot program to crack down on illegal dumping in state parks and natural lands through a tough new enforcement effort and enhanced education initiative.

The DEP’s “Don’t Waste Our Open Space” campaign began with clean-up events held at the D&R Canal State Park and at Brendan Byrne State Forest.

The anti-dumping campaign is a coordinated effort of a host of DEP agencies, including Parks, Fish and Wildlife, Compliance and Enforcement, Solid Waste, Water Resources, State Park Police, State Conservation Police, State Forestry Services and the Natural Lands Trust. Also involved are State Police and the Attorney General’s Office for an effort that also will seek the cooperation of municipalities, county park systems and local police throughout the state.

All activities of this new effort will be posted on www.stopdumping.nj.gov, a new website that serves as a hub for the entire program.

Nearly all of the state’s more than 170 publicly owned tracts, including state parks, state forests, wildlife management areas, and natural lands and preserves, have been impacted by illegal dumping. These lands account for 813,000 acres of state-preserved open space.

Illegal dumping, which includes everything from unlawful disposal of construction debris and old TVs and computers to the dumping of car parts and tires– and even entire vehicles – has been a growing problem in the state’s vast natural holdings in all 21 counties in recent years.

The new “Don’t Waste Our Open Space’’ campaign will include:

•A focus on public education, using the new www.stopdumping.nj.gov website to provide visitors to New Jersey’s parks and natural areas information on how to inform DEP of illegal dumping and what to do if you see illegal dumping as it happens. There also will be information on how to legally and
properly dispose of various materials, opportunities for visitors to join the Don’t Waste Our Open Space campaign, and receive information about clean-up opportunities around the state.
•Strategically deployed motion-sensor cameras set up in select state parks and wildlife management areas to help nab violators. In addition, information on arrests and charges filed in connection with illegal dumping will be posted on the new website.
•Aggressive pursuit of civil and criminal complaints against violators. Penalties for illegal dumping in state parks and in fish and wildlife areas will include criminal fines of up to $5,000 per violation and civil penalties of up to $1,500 per violation. In addition, the state also will seek much stiffer penalties for major violations through the Solid Waste Management Act, which authorizes the DEP and county health departments to initiate civil actions for illegal dumping violations.
•More warning and education signs about illegal dumping on state lands, while also exploring additional secondary deterrents such as installation of road barricades and additional lighting in areas prone to violations.

The progress of the “Don’t Waste Our Open Space” pilot program will be evaluated after one year. If education and enforcement measures prove successful, the DEP is hopeful it will serve as a model for county systems in New Jersey or other states throughout the country.

“Raising awareness of this problem is just part of the solution,” said DEP Deputy Commissioner Michele Siekerka. “We hope the mix of increased enforcement, combined with education and stewardship, will result in an improved environment in our natural areas and result in a better experience for those who enjoy our state lands.”

For more information on State Parks and Forests, visit this page.

Published in the May 2014 Edition of American Recycler News