Jimmy Pinson, 18, of Eastaboga and John Martinez, 19, of Oxford, each face fines of up to $5,000 and six months in prison for allegedly dumping tires in the park. The two have already cleaned up the dump site, which held about 100 tires, said Karen McKenzie of the Forest Service, Shoal Creek District ranger.
Pinson and Martinez are scheduled to appear in federal court in Birmingham on March 28 before Judge John England.
Although dumping in the park is common, McKenzie said, Pinson and Martinez are in the minority as many illegal dumpers are not caught.
“It’s very unusual unfortunately,” McKenzie said.
But she thinks the citations will become more common. The Shoal Creek District had been without a law enforcement officer until about 18 months ago when Officer Scott Roper was hired, McKenzie said. Roper spent his first nine months on the job at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy, but is now working at the park, she said.
McKenzie often receives tips about poaching or dumping from area residents or visitors to the park; now, there is an officer to check them out, she said.
“I don’t understand the thinking behind dumping in the National Forest,” McKenzie said.
The forest is a beautiful, recreational asset and the dump sites create hazards for visitors and wildlife, damage vegetation and pollute streams, she said.
Dumping is common not only in the Talladega National Forest, but among the other national forests in the state as well, said Tammy Freeman Truett, public affairs officer for National Forests in Alabama. But as in Talladega, catching the dumpers is rare.
“This is the first time this fiscal year that an illegal dumping case was solved,” Truett said.
In fact, illegal dumping is a problem in many rural areas, officials say. Brian Pirritano, environmental enforcement officer for Calhoun County, said criminal littering is always a problem.
In calendar year 2013, Calhoun County discovered 82 illegal dumps and picked up 129.7 tons of litter from roads, highways and byways. Despite finding all that trash, the county didn’t issue any citations for criminal littering in 2013, he said.
Anyone with information about illegal dumping or any criminal activity in the National Forest can contact McKenzie at 256-463-2272.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.