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Pennsylvania Uses Video Cameras to Catch Illegal Dumping in State Forests

Harrisburg, PA - Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary John C. Oliver announced that Pennsylvania is using motion-sensitive cameras to help identify and prosecute individuals who illegally dump trash in state forest and park lands.

"We're working hard to educate people on the proper way to dispose of tires, appliances and other garbage," Secretary Oliver said. "There's never a good reason to trash our forests. But now individuals who use Pennsylvania's public lands as a dumping ground could find themselves starring in a film that will result in a criminal record."

The use of the cameras is being piloted in Michaux State Forest, which spreads into parts of Adams, Cumberland and Franklin counties. The cameras were purchased as part of the Forest Lands Beautification Program, a five-year campaign to clean up existing dumps on state forest and park lands. In 2002, the forest camera program will be expanded to other Pennsylvania state forests.

Seventeen illegal dump sites have been identified in Michaux State Forest. About 200 dump sites have been identified statewide where household trash, appliances, construction debris and other garbage has been discarded.

According to Gary Zimmerman, Michaux State Forest Assistant District Forester, the cameras will be placed at undisclosed dump sites throughout the forest. The small cameras range from seven inches long to just one-and-a-half inches square, and will rotate among various locations so dumpers will have difficulty determining whether they are being captured on tape. Black-and-white, wide-angle color and long-range cameras will be employed in the effort.

Because illegal dumping often occurs in remote areas, the forest cameras will supplement monitoring of dump sites by foresters and volunteers. More than 130 miles of mostly rural road run through the 85,000-acre Michaux State Forest.

"The cameras are a great law enforcement tool for a tough problem," Mr.Zimmerman said. "Because dumpers will never know where the cameras are, they might think twice about dumping on forest lands. And for those captured on tape, we'll have evidence to move forward with a prosecution."

If convicted, offenders can be fined up to $300 plus court costs. Often, forest dumpers also are sentenced to perform community service.

Michaux is the first of the 20 Pennsylvania state forest districts that will install video cameras at identified dump sites. DCNR plans to purchase additional equipment under the Forest Lands Beautification Program that will be rotated throughout forests with dumping problems.

"To keep these dump sites clear, monitoring must be done," said Ed Bortzfield, DCNR Forest Program Specialist. "We are fortunate to have many caring volunteers who help with this effort. We hope the thought of being identified by camera will further deter those contemplating dumping in the forests."

The Forest Lands Beautification Act provides up to $7.5 million over five years to clean up existing dumps on state forest and park lands by recycling or properly disposing of waste materials. The program is funded by the Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act (Act 101), administered by the Department of Environmental Protection.

DCNR works in partnership with PA CleanWays to identify dump sites and to form community volunteer teams to help remove the waste.

More than 200 illegal dump sites have been identified throughout Pennsylvania. To date, 68 sites have been cleaned through the efforts of more than 615 volunteers. These cleanups have resulted in the removal of nearly 350 tons of debris -- including 4,000 tires, 73 tons of scrap metal, construction materials, household trash, furniture and more.

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