Man charged with injuring federal land with rubbish

Posted: Monday, September 08, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) An elderly man has been charged with strewing junk cars, 55-gallon drums and other refuse across nine acres of federal property.

Ernest L. Dennis was charged by the U.S. attorney's office with one felony charge of injury to government property. Dennis faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Dennis, a longtime Alaska resident, is now in Texas with his sister, said his attorney, Jim Gilmore. His arraignment was originally set for the beginning of September, but the man, who is in his 70s, has health problems, so it was delayed until October, Gilmore said.

Gilmore said he had no comment on the charges.

Bureau of Land Management officials told the Anchorage Daily News that sometime at the end of August 2001, dozens of 55-gallon drums, junked cars, wrecked snowmobiles and motorcycles, and leftovers from a honey bucket were strewn across nine acres of federal land off the Glenn Highway near Eureka summit.

Dave Mushovic, a realty specialist for BLM, called it ''a big mess.''

BLM obtained special funding for the more than $100,000 needed to haul away everything scattered in the open area used mostly for snowmobiling. The government wants to be paid back for that expense.

Dennis lived on a one- or two-acre parcel about a mile from the Glenn Highway across from Tahneta Lake, about 123 miles east of Anchorage, BLM officials said. His property, purchased in 1987, is surrounded on three sides by federal land, Mushovic said.

For years, junk has piled up on Dennis' property, where he lived in a cabin with no outhouse, Mushovic said.

''His property was marked,'' Mushovic said. ''He knew exactly where his boundaries were.''

Dennis wanted to sell his property, Mushovic said.

Prosecutors said he shoved 50 junked vehicles, even more 55-gallon drums and other containers for waste petroleum products, wrecked snowmobiles and motorcycles, scrap metal, discarded toilets, pipes, furniture and bags of human waste.

''From the air you can actually see scars in the ground where he had pushed the junked vehicles off his property,'' said Ramone McCoy, field manager for the Glennallen BLM office.

Mushovic said he is still waiting for results of an environmental test of soil, which may have been tainted by leaking oil or other chemicals seeping from the dumped junk. Many of the drums were not labeled, McCoy said.

''There was some obviously chemical and petroleum smells where stuff had spilled,'' Mushovic said.

People have dumped rubbish on BLM land before, but federal officials get the people to clean it up if they can, she said. This time, the dumping was so egregious that the U.S. attorney's office got involved, McCoy said.

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