Lawmakers provide tools to help forest landowners address illegal dumping


Private forest landowners in Washington state are proud of their contributions to the local, rural communities where they operate.

Many computer monitors contain materials that could pose harmful to the environment if released.

In addition to protecting watersheds, providing habitat for fish and wildlife, and providing well-paying rural jobs, private landowners offer hundreds of thousands of acres of open land for public recreation. Private forestlands provide access to hunting, fishing, birding, hiking, biking, horseback riding, or even the newer trend of forest bathing. Landowners are excited to offer these opportunities; however, they come at a cost. A tiny percentage of those entering forestlands have a more nefarious motivation.

In addition to being an eyesore, waste tires present a dangerous fire hazard.

Forest landowners have been grappling with a significant increase in illegal dumping, far beyond just a little litter. They are discovering piles of household garbage, furniture, appliances, wrecked cars, old boats, derelict recreational vehicles, hazardous substances, and all sorts of illegally dumped waste on their lands.

This magnitude of dumping not only creates significant financial burdens for the landowners, but also immediate and sometimes lasting environmental and habitat damage. The severity of this issue is understood and recognized by the government and law enforcement.

The 2024 Washington State Legislature, in response to concerns raised by private forest landowners, acted. HB 2207, signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on March 25th and will take effect on June 6th, is a bipartisan legislation championed by Rep. Bill Ramos (D-Issaquah) and Rep. Travis Couture (R-Union) that provides new tools for law enforcement as they attempt to head off illegal dumping on our state’s private and public forests. This legislation offers tools for private forest landowners and signals a firm commitment from the state to address this issue.

Forested area marred by illegal dumping.

The new law allows for both criminal and civil enforcement of illegal dumping.

HB 2207 gives local law enforcement an easier path towards holding illegal dumpers responsible and a broader suite of tools so they can right-size their enforcement effort with the magnitude of the litter found in the forest. The law also significantly increases the penalties for illegal dumping.

Violators of the new dumping law can receive a litter clean-up restitution payment of up to four times the actual cost of cleaning up the mess they created. The clean-up payment is in addition to a legal penalty for dumping. That penalty alone can be up to $1,000. All told, someone found dumping their garbage in the forest could face a fine of multiple thousands of dollars.

Private forest landowners across the state thank Rep. Ramos, Rep. Couture, and the rest of the Legislature for seriously considering the concerns around illegal dumping. We look forward to working with state and local law enforcement agencies to give life to this new law and start making a dent in an issue that deteriorates both public recreational opportunities and the environmental deliverables on forestland statewide.

Illegal dumping creates a financial burden for landowners and taxpayers.