Even in the grainy, black and white surveillance camera photo, the three young men are obviously in their twenties, and are ready to dump an old washer and dryer out of their small truck in the Goose Bay State Game Refuge parking lot. The three were caught on camera breaking the law. Joe Meehan, statewide coordinator for the refuge program, says the three then used the appliances for target practice, further polluting state property.
“And that’s just repeating this whole cycle of dumping garbage and lead contamination. We’re going to keep on top of it. We’re not going to tolerate it. The users of the Refuge don’t want it to continue and we are going to try to stop it as best we can by continuing to clean up and by catching and prosecuting people when we can catch them. “
Meehan says when the trio are located, possible fines of up to 10 thousand dollars and up to a year of jail time await them, under Fish and Game law.
“Yeah, it’s been a long time problem. It’s been going on out there at Goose Bay for decades. It kind of became the culture of use for people to drag their old refrigerators, tvs, computers, couches, furniture, stolen vehicles, junk vehicles, bring them out there and target practice with them and then just leave all their garbage behind.”
Since 2010, the state has spent one hundred thousand dollars cleaning up Goose Bay. With the help of the Alaska National Guard, about 107 Tons of debris has been removed including about 75 vehicles, 40 car batteries and other hazardous materials. Recent cleanup efforts have aimed to mitigate lead deposits that remain in the refuge from years of target shooting.
“We ran into the same problem in the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge. That people just get accustomed to doing it. It’s where they go to dispose of their garbage, it’s where they go to target shoot. And if we can clean it up, fix it up and attract people to go in there and use this for legitimate activities, like hunting and fishing and bird watching and photography, eventually, you’ll displace that illegal activity. I’d like to think that we are changing people’s types of use and that they are not doing that illegal behavior, but unfortunately a lot of times I think we are just displacing it and sending it elsewhere.”
This week, a twenty year old Wasilla man, Ian Beall, was fined one thousand dollars for dumping two truck loads of roofing material at Goose Bay State Game Refuge. He must also serve 20 hours of community service. Beall was easily traced through evidence gathered by refuge officials, and he pleaded guilty in December.