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Tim Burke: Why do people dump trash illegally in Pahrump?

In 1962, arguably one of the greatest movies ever made was released, “Lawrence of Arabia.” Based on the life of T.E. Lawrence, a flamboyant and controversial British military figure. The film depicts Lawrence’s experiences in the Arabian Peninsula during World War I and was nominated for 10 Oscars at the 35th Annual Academy Awards, winning seven.

In one scene, Lawrence is asked by Mr. Dryden, the cynical Arab Bureau official: “What is it, Major Lawrence, that attracts you personally to the desert?”

Lawrence: “It’s clean.”

The desert around Pahrump, not so much. I am perplexed why some residents think it is perfectly OK to dump their trash into our desert.

There are stretches of open road here connecting communities, residences, and businesses. Go down just about any road and you will see illegally dumped trash. The farther out and more rural the road, the more trash. In many spots, you can clearly see where someone backed up their truck and tossed out mattresses, household trash and other items.

Those types of trash will not be broken down by nature and turned into compost in a short amount of time. Instead, it will occupy that portion of the desert for years or until someone else chooses to clean up another person’s trash. On the road I live on, in the last two months some of the items that have been dumped include a pile of roofing shingles from someone’s house remodel, a pile of brush and tree limbs, and a pile of broken-up concrete blocks.

The residents who choose to dump their trash clearly have no respect for our fragile desert, for our community, or for the residents. And it means that they are too lazy to drive to the county landfill which is not only open seven days a week, it is free!

And it is against the law. Illegal dumping on BLM land (and we have lots of that here) is a federal offense. There are also state and county regulations against it. Penalties include prison time and fines.

We need to respect our community and help clean up Pahrump. Growing up in the 1970s we were constantly made aware to “not litter” and to be more conscious of the environment. That message has expanded now to include recycling and green initiatives.

Many communities have an annual cleanup day where volunteers partner with service organizations, businesses, and local waste companies. The service organizations gather volunteers, local businesses provide T-shirts and refreshments, and the waste companies provide trash bins and equipment.

Here in Pahrump, we have several great groups working to clean up Pahrump. Deanna O’Donnell initiated “Let’s Clean Up Pahrump” focusing on cleaning up neighborhoods on a quarterly basis. We hold an annual “Pahrump Town Cleanup” that last year had some good success in getting volunteers.

Holding community cleanup days has long-lasting benefits. It raises the community’s awareness of illegal dumping and where the main problem areas are. Nothing like going out to clean up someone else’s illegally dumped trash to make you more vigilant on catching people in the act.

So what else can we do? First off, report illegal dumping. Get a license plate and call the sheriff’s office. Volunteer to help one of our community groups working to clean up Pahrump. And email me the areas that are hit the hardest with illegal dumping. It’s time to stop making our desert a dumping ground for people who can’t seem to find their way to the landfill.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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GUEST COMMENTARY: Why Esmeralda County supports the Rhyolite Ridge project

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in the July 2, 2021 edition of the Pahrump Valley Times and is being republished here as advancements on the Rhyolite Ridge mining project are made. The co-writers of this column were Nancy Boland, a former chairwoman of the Esmeralda County Commission who has served on the Esmeralda County Land Use Advisory Committee, along with Kathy Keyes, Greg Dedera and Mark Hartman, residents of Fish Lake Valley. Public comment for the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Mine Project in Esmeralda County ends Feb. 3, 2023.

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