Rep. Randy Baumgardner proposes bill requiring registration of private burials
March 3, 2010
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust – in the funeral prayer there is no mention of mahogany and copper, concrete, embalming fluids and pesticides.
Each year in the nation’s 22,000 cemeteries, according to AARP, 100,000 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, 1.6 million tons of concrete and 827,000 gallons of embalming fluids are buried along with the dead. Weed killer and fertilizer are added to cemetery lawns to keep them green.
It’s this environmental reason along with an economic incentive that “green burials” are becoming increasingly more popular.
At a modest number of green cemeteries in the U.S. – located in California, Florida, South Carolina, New York, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, Maine, New Jersey and soon in Colorado – loved ones are buried without the embalming ritual in a biodegradable wooden box or in a shroud, even grandmother’s quilt. Graves are marked with a tree, a natural looking stone or GPS coordinate to identify where a person is buried.
The land is kept in its natural state, set aside for wildlife, birds, trees, wildflowers and other vegetation. Since the burial becomes a natural return to the earth, a completion of the cycle of life takes place, where from a grave sprouts new growth. This can be a comforting thought to the living.
The National Funeral Directors Association states that an average funeral in 2010 costs $7,323, not including a cemetery plot, monument or marker costs, flowers and obituaries.
So in Colorado, where no state law addresses burying someone on private property, a growing number of people are eschewing traditional and expensive funerals and cemeteries, opting instead for a green burial of loved ones on their own land, according to Brenda Bock, Grand County coroner and vice president of the Colorado Coroner’s Association.
In response to this reality, the Coroner’s Association has influenced a recent bill sponsored by Colorado District 57 Rep. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs that requires people to record private-property burials with the county clerk’s office within 30 days of the burial. By doing this, the burial becomes public record and travels with the property deed.
“The reason this came forward is because people were buying parcels of ground, and when they put in an irrigation system or started to build, they would hit remains,” said Rep. Baumgardner.
Several of these incidences cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, he said, with subsequent police homicide investigations, involvement of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, forensics and pathology reports.
Baumgardner’s law, which passed the House on Feb. 25 and is headed to the Senate, requires a public record of the identity of the person buried, the name of the property owner, the legal description of the property, the reception number of the death certificate and the latitude and longitude coordinates of the burial site.
“It’s expensive,” Bock said about costs incurred from dying in the U.S. “I can see why people are going more and more this way, so we just need to regulate it so we know what’s going on out there.”
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.