March 29, 2007

County scraps dumping ban

Move allows land agency to use trash facilities

Jeff Horwitz, Staff Writer
San Bernardino Sun [Bernardino, CA]

After a seven-year feud over land rights in the desert, San Bernardino County is scrapping a punitive policy denying the Bureau of Land Management access to county dumps.

In 2000, the county revoked the BLM's privilege to dump trash at county facilities in retaliation for the agency's decision to settle a lawsuit over desert tortoise habitat at the expense of a small group of local ranchers. The BLM's move infuriated then-1st District Supervisor Bill Postmus and his chief of staff Brad Mitzelfelt, who believed the agency had an obligation to stand up for the ranchers.

On Tuesday, Mitzelfelt, 10 weeks into an appointment to his former boss' seat, said that it was time to junk the disagreement.

"I think we made our point," Mitzelfelt said. Because of the county's prohibition, Mitzelfelt said, the BLM had been forced to either pay for dumping privileges or enlist volunteer groups to dump their trash for them.

Stephen Razo, spokesman for the BLM's Desert District, said the BLM's access to the dump would be a benefit to county taxpayers.

"We do a lot of volunteer cleanups out in the desert, picking up refuse on public land," he said.

The decision had been made at a meeting between BLM staff and Mitzelfelt last week, he said, which had been "very positive."

Mitzelfelt, who has sometimes sparred with the federal government over preserving and expanding recreational and commercial access to public lands, said he hoped to see the county and the BLM work more closely together in the future.