Apparently, some Texans believe the term “state forest” means residency gives them the right to do as they please on these properties, including timber theft, arson, riding four-wheelers, hunting, and other crimes such as illegal dumping.
One man learned a hard lesson recently after dumping household garbage on state property in Montgomery County.
Ray Zavadil, Law Enforcement Investigator with the Texas Forest Service, took that position earlier this year. He is responsible for patrolling seven counties, including Harris and Montgomery. Unlike his predecessors, Zavadil is based in nearby Huntsville and is able to provide a much stronger local presence.
Last week, Zavadil found five large bags of household garbage in W.G. Jones State Forest. Sifting through the bags, Zavadil said he noticed someone took the time to remove magazine mailing labels, credit card receipts, and anything that might identify the source of the garbage. He finally found an item that was overlooked and set about the task of finding the responsible party, which can be time consuming. However, Zavadil had a gut feeling, and it turned out to be correct.
“There was a road crew doing construction on FM 1488,” he said. “It was a fresh dump and they were working in that area – it was just a hunch.”
According to Montgomery County Jail records, 30-year-old Augustin Ramirez Sosa was booked on July 23, charged with illegal dumping, more than 5 pounds, but less than 500 pounds. Sosa also had an outstanding Harris County warrant for theft of wire cable, 50% aluminum/bronze/copper, less than $20,000.
Zavadil said people frequently cut locks on gates with posted notices to gain entry and break the law. What they don’t realize is that in addition to being a state park, Jones State Forest is a game sanctuary containing colonies of an endangered species of woodpecker.
“Over 50,000 bird watchers from all over the world visit the park each year because of the (endangered species) Woodpecker,” Zavadil said.
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office is checking into whether the charges against Sosa can be enhanced because the crime was committed in a game sanctuary for an endangered species.
Zavadil changes in the operation of his office locally will not end with more patrolling, but he’ll also make more contacts and provide a greater visibility in the community.
“We’re trying to make it a pleasurable recreational experience for everyone,” Zavadil said.