Respect For Public Lands: Garbage

I wrote this a few months ago (not so long after another Public Lands discussion)—I’ve tried to let my anger simmer down a bit but it still just astounds me that beer cans and water bottles (and fireworks debris and discarded clothing) don’t distract from some people’s outdoor experience… Then last week I was riding my bike to work and watched an individual toss their Kleenex on the side of the bike trail. I was furious.

Kim Kircher put up a post today called, “Don’t Be A Pig” and I figured now was as good a time as any to put up my post.

We drove by the first can abandoned on the gravel road and then the second. After spotting a few more cans, Forrest started slowing down so I could reach down, grab them and toss the garbage into the basket of the quad. At each passing can…Budweiser…Bud Lite…Coors…Mountain Dew…I got more upset.

Surrounding me were modest mountain peaks presiding over beautiful basins. Creeks full of clear, cold snowmelt rushed down and through it all winds a terrific tangle of Forest Service roads and old mining and timber roads. Harmlessly they sit there and allow for enormous amounts of recreation. A jarring exception to this beauty is the collection of garbage left behind by those who came to recreate.

We turned on to a less well-traveled trail that headed up into a small valley. Marking the entrance of the 4-wheeler trail to the main road was a Solo cup and a disintegrating wad of toilet paper. Just up the trail, more beer cans, water bottles, a blanket, and granola bar wrappers. And lots more toilet paper (it was likely buried in the snow by snowmobilers…out of sight out of mind).

So gross. Whyyy??? (source)

On to our quad when the wrappers, bottles, and cans and as we drove away from the beautiful but toilet-paper-stained-place I seethed. These are our lands. Americans have more space to explore and enjoy the outdoors than any individual could possibly expect to fully know in their lifetime and rather than take the simplest of steps to preserve our abilities to enjoy the outdoors, the opportunities are taken so horribly for granted.

I’m an advocate for wilderness and motorized access. Team 3Up uses both areas for recreation. Those who abuse the land are usually the ones to pipe up most shrilly when gates are put up and motorized access is curtailed. (I almost never see garbage more than a half mile up a foot traffic only trail and really never see it beyond a mile…) Motorized access depends on treating the land well.

The rules are simple, unobtrusive and easy to follow: Pack out trash. Bury human waste (and do so well away from trails). Stick to established trails (of which there are plenty). Pick up the wrapper that may have strayed from its owner.

Is that really so very difficult?

America’s Public Lands: Under Attack

Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us. -Teddy Roosevelt

America has a lot of public land—in fact, more than 30% of our land area is public. In August of 2010, I heard Tim Egan speak in Wallace. He spoke about Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, the Fire of 1910, and his book The Big Burn. The thing I remember most, and that I scribbled in my notes from the evening, was his comments on the importance of America’s public lands, “‘We didn’t have a home on Hayden Lake like the swells,’ Mother said, ‘We’re richer than the bastards! We have the national forests!'” In an op-ed piece for the New York Times, he elaborated: “Not long after I was old enough to cast my first vote, I realized that with American citizenship came a birthright to my summer home.”

The land area of the United States is about 2.26 billion acres. Of that, the Federal Government owns 605 million acres that are administered by the public lands agencies: the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the National Parks Service, and the National Wildlife Refuge system. In addition, state governments own 197.5 million acres. The lands are administered in a variety of ways, they include recreation areas, forest land sold for timber purposes, and the lands in the National Wilderness Preservation System (cited data). Whether it is Tim Egan acknowledging the wealth the lands grant to all Americans (and millions of foreign visitors) or Teddy Roosevelt designating 230 million acres of public lands America’s public lands have been repeated acknowledged as an asset to our country.

Public Lands: BLM

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