CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION LAUNCHES NEW “DON’T WASTE OUR OPEN SPACE”
INITIATIVE TO COMBAT ILLEGAL DUMPING IN STATE PARKS AND NATURAL LANDS
AGGRESSIVE ENFORCEMENT, NEW WEBSITE AND STEWARDSHIP PART OF MULTI-PROGRAM CRACKDOWN
(14/P20) TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today launched a year-long pilot program to crack down on illegal dumping in state parks and natural lands through a combined tough new enforcement effort and enhanced education initiative, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin announced.
The DEP’s “Don’t Waste Our Open Space” campaign was kicked off today at two press conferences and clean-up events simultaneously held at the D&R Canal State Park in Franklin Township, Somerset County, and at Brendan Byrne State Forest in Woodland Township, Burlington County.
“Too often, we see our most pristine properties and favorite getaways fall victim to illegal dumpers, who have no regard for the environment, wildlife or people who enjoy the outdoors,” Commissioner Martin said during the event in Franklin Township. “The goal of this crackdown is to let violators know their actions will not be tolerated and that there will be consequences for what they do. At the same time, the success of this initiative also will be determined by raising public awareness on this issue and to encourage our residents to get involved in this effort.”
The anti-dumping campaign is a coordinated effort of a host of DEP agencies, including Parks, Fish & Wildlife, Compliance & 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.
“Debris that is left behind by illegal dumpers is not only unsightly, but it pollutes these properties we cherish,” said State Park Director Mark Texel. “It is potentially harmful to public health, wildlife and ecosystems. It also wastes the previous clean-up efforts of volunteers and puts the costs of clean-ups on the taxpayer. We hope this program will result in a decrease of illegal dumping on state lands.”
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: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/
For more information on State Park Police, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/njstateparkpolice/index.htm
For more information on Solid Waste Compliance and Enforcement, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/enforcement/sw.html
For more information on DEP Natural Lands Management, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/natural/index.html