Team Effort Aimed At Cleaning Up Forest Dumping

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As the volunteers fanned out, the backhoes and other heavy equipment moved in.

For the first time in the Rim country, about 30 people from several disparate forest user groups came together on Wednesday to clean up one of the biggest dumping grounds in the Payson Ranger District -- Forest Road 433 on the eastern edge of Star Valley.

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Representatives from Arizona Game and Fish and the U. S. Forest Service joined volunteers from Rim Country 4 Wheelers, Payson Horseman's Association, Gila County Trails Alliance and Tonto Rim Search and Rescue to spend the better part of Wednesday picking up a disgusting array of items illegally dumped along Forest Road 433.

With the assistance of the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service, members of the Rim Country 4 Wheelers, the Payson Horseman's Association, the Gila County Trails Alliance, and Tonto Rim Search and Rescue spent the better part of the day picking up an array of items illegally dumped along the roadway. There were building supplies and old carpets, sofas and mattresses, tires and car parts, stoves and refrigerators.

"This is the kind of stuff that's all along here, probably for half a mile," Bill Berggren, president of the 4 Wheelers said. "Our group has already cleaned this road up four times."

And there are many other areas where illegal dumping is a problem. Two of the worst are Crackerjack and the Shoofly Indian Ruins area near Mesa del Caballo. It was the growing scope of the problem that triggered the latest initiative, Game and Fish Field Supervisor Craig McMullen said.

"This is the first time we've brought these groups together," McMullen said. "We've been trying to establish a link between the land management agencies and our agency as an off-highway vehicle administrator for a long time."

In conjunction with the cleanup effort, Game and Fish also is placing additional emphasis on enforcement.

"It's a relatively small number of people who are doing the dumping," McMullen said, "so we'd like to get the message out that there are people out here who are concerned about it and also that we'll take enforcement action anytime we catch anybody dumping."

Still another coordinated effort in the planning stages is a new signing initiative.

"This is another volunteer project with the same groups," McMullen said. "We want to sign those trails that are closed to motorized vehicles or roads that go into our designated wilderness areas in a more permanent manner. A lot of them have been posted in the past, but a few of the users have taken great effort to remove them so they can say they didn't know."

To make the signs more difficult to remove or vandalize, they'll be attached to steel I-beams set in concrete. The new signs will also be a boon to responsible forest users.

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