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Protecting Rural Land from Dumping written by Chris Miller


Most owners of rural land do not live on their property or see it on a regular basis. This can make their property vulnerable to not only trespassing but dumping of trash or debris by others. This can occur anywhere but can be more frequent when the property is located near urban areas that do not have public trash pickup or areas where counties charge fees to dispose of certain types of trash.

Many localities charge fees for the dumping of construction waste. Because of the cost and the necessity to drive to specific recycling centers or landfills that may be far away, the instance of illegal dumping on rural property can be high. Cost of unloading construction waste at facilities can be $40-$50 per ton. Tires are common as well which can cost $2-3 each for disposal. It is also common to see tree trimming debris dumped on forest land, with the assumption that the person thinks this debris will blend in and not be noticed by the owner, especially on sites recently harvested.

Dumping is not only unsightly, but it can affect the value of your property and the marketability of your property depending on the area disturbed and the types of items present. This can cause interested parties to not pursue your land or to make purchase offers that are contingent upon your removal of the trash.

It is impossible to fully protect your property from the possibility of illegal dumping; I have experienced an instance of a truck load of debris being dumped on a client’s property in the middle of the day while a harvest was occurring. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of dumping on your property. Some recommendations are included below.

  1. Keep your property access points gated and public road frontage as secure as possible. Roads that have very little traffic are more common targets as it is less likely the person will be caught in the act. Tracts without gates at entrances are easy targets, with the person usually driving just inside the property to unload. Install gates that are highly visible, AFM typically recommends farm cattle gate styles or heavy metal gates painted in high visibility colors. Never install cable gates as they can cause liability if a trespasser is hurt because they do not see the gate and run into on an ATV for example. Also the landowner should not “set traps” or dig ditches or “tank traps” across access points to block entry. This can present an opportunity for a trespasser to be hurt and open the landowner up for liability. Blocking access points with highly visible earthen berms can be an option for roads to be closed.
  2. When dumping occurs, clean it up as soon as possible. Nothing encourages more dumping more that someone seeing that it has been previously accepted. This can be costly or an unpleasant task but it will reduce the risk of more problems. If there is household garbage on your property, there can be some success looking for mail items disposed of in the trash. If you can find mail you may be able to provide this to law enforcement and prosecute the trespasser.
  3. Consider leasing your property for recreational uses like hunting. Lessees can be your eyes and ears on the property on a regular basis. The presence of humans on the property is a great deterrent and they are more likely to notice problems soon after they occur. This can be especially helpful for out of state or absentee landowners who cannot check on the property on a regular basis.
  4. When harvests occur especially those along public road frontage, you can ask the logging contractor to block or close entry points with logging debris and limbs to make entry very difficult until a new stand is established. My opinion is the landowner is the most vulnerable to dumping for the first 3 years post-harvest until the new forest is established and growing well.
  5. Keep your property boundaries well marked with paint and no trespassing signs. If is it clear your property is maintained and you are serious about protecting it, that alone is a deterrent.

While this is not a topic that is interesting, it is a risk that all owners of rural land should be aware of and prepare for accordingly. A consulting forester can not only help you manage your timber but they can also make recommendations on how to protect your property. American Forest Management’s team of professionals is glad to make annual tract inspections, recommendations to secure properties or clean them, and recommend contractors to complete repairs and upgrades is needed.