LAKE COUNTY — While strolling through the forest, people expect to find picturesque views, not a bunch of garbage. With oversight of 250,000 acres of federal land in Lake and Newaygo counties, Jake Lubera, district ranger for the Baldwin/White Cloud Ranger Station of the Huron-Manistee National Forest, said illegal dumping on public lands is a huge problem.

Lubera pointed out a small stretch of road through the national forest outside of White Cloud, where household garbage, construction material and yard clippings are strewn along the roadsides.

Piles of brush, deteriorating furniture, busted toys, tattered sheets, scattered paper and plastic trash can be found every few feet along the road. Some of the household trash was peeking out from beneath the debris it was hidden under.

“Folks are coming in and dumping every kind of trash imaginable — Christmas trees and other yard clippings — and leaving garbage bags with deer hides in the woods. We want people to enjoy these lands. Even members of the public who jog by say this is disgusting,” Lubera said.

Aside from the dumping being a blight issue in forest lands, there are other major concerns, Lubera added.

“The yard clippings can introduce invasive species,” he said. “If there is a fire, I don’t want to send firefighters out to the site with tires and other material which would be toxic to burn. I also hate to think of the medical waste people might encounter when they clean up the trash.”

Lubera said the U.S. Forest Service taking care of the dumping sites takes time away from managing parks and other public places in the national forest.

“If people properly disposed of trash and other items, we would have more time to maintain sites which draw people. It takes time to address this issue, not to mention the sheer cost of it all,” he said.

Illegal dumping is an issue on any public lands and wooded areas, not just the national forest, he added.

Lubera said people can do their part to help remedy the issue.

“We are asking for folks to report dumping when they see it. Help us find out who is doing it. Get their license plates. We cannot be everywhere and we need the help,” he said. “We have other projects and we could easily spend three days on a road such as this, all within sight of the main road. When people are caught illegally dumping, we can ticket and prosecute them.”

The offense is punishable with up to a $500 fine, six months imprisonment or both.