Illegal dumping persists at Hubbard Mesa near Rifle
Hubbard Mesa, a large swath of public land near Rifle used for off-road recreation and shooting sports, continues to be plagued by illegal dumping, according to the Beauru of Land Management.
“When it comes to trash, that’s an ongoing issue with public lands in general,” BLM Public Affairs Specialist Eric Coulter said. “That’s kind of something we deal with all over.”
A short drive north on County Road 244, just past a forestry service office, reveals a metallic graveyard. To the right-hand side, a banana-yellow fishing boat with a shattered windshield. Farther down the road, a smashed-up sedan riddled with bullet holes.
In addition to the derelict vehicles are discarded paint cans and other assorted items objects used for target practice. Coulter said illegal dumping is typically found near populated areas.
Rifle resident Annie MacGregor said she remembers the abandoned vehicles being at Hubbard Mesa for at least a month now.
“People are insane and there’s no law enforcement,” MacGregor said. “Drives me crazy how people treat our land.”
So which agency is responsible for maintaining this public land? The BLM. According to Rifle Community Service Officer Alan Lambert as well as the city map, Hubbard Mesa does not fall within municipal limits.
“Usually we have an off-road vehicle group that takes care of that — they go there once a year and do a big clean-up and the county helps them with that,” Lambert said. “That’s a county issue.”
The voluntary clean-up usually takes place in spring, Lambert said.When it comes to regular maintenance, however, the county said it’s responsible for managing anything related to the roads themselves.
“We don’t own any property in the Hubbard Mesa area,” Garfield County Manager Kevin Batchelder said in email. “If it is an issue within the County Road right-of-way, our Road and Bridge crews will respond.”
Garfield County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Walt Stowe said the county has in the past issued citations for illegal dumping in the area. Sheriff’s office data shows no citations for illegal dumping over the past two years.
“We can’t be everywhere at one time,” he said. “But if we find somebody dumping, we’ll cite them.”
So ultimately it’s up to the BLM to use their law enforcers to patrol and fully enforce illegal dumping. Depending on the items that are dumped — hazardous materials, certain appliances and vehicles — costs can add up, Coulter said.
“It does have quite a cost between labor hours to haul to the dump and pay those dump items,” he said. “They can get up there in price.”
In addition to manpower, catching someone red-handed is also rare. In order for someone to receive a citation, there needs to be a witness, Coulter said.
“We’re busy and we prioritize our workloads,” he said. “So, we’re always playing catch up.”
Lambert said, however, when people do call in and report illegal dumping, he responds as quickly as he can.
“We’re trying to look out for those things, because we don’t want them dumping out there,” he said.
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