I have always loved nature. My favorite adolescent activities all involved escaping into the woods to explore, while my career plans pretty much centered around being a modern-day “mountain man.”
It’s probably no surprise then that I spend as much time as possible in nature as an adult. In fact, I spent several years building up a freelance writing business precisely to provide me with the freedom to be able to travel and spend time in amazing places. (Ironically, I now spend most of my time producing video rather than writing, but so go the best laid plans of mice and men.)
Since I spend a lot of time each year traveling and exploring public lands across the western U.S., I perhaps have a different perspective than many people. The sad reality? People are trashing our public lands far faster than the land can heal.
While I have seen this trend in several states, it is definitely more prevalent in the desert areas than in the forests. Why is this? while I have no empirical evidence, my best guess is the prevalent, if misguided, opinion that deserts are wastelands. After all, if an area is already a wasteland, it must be okay to trash it. Right?
Another fellow traveler recently observed that there are three common factors that she has observed that correlate predictably (if not causally) with illegal dumping and littering. Those factors are alcohol, guns, and ATVs/UTVs. That observation is quite precise, in my experience. Note that this is not a slam on responsible users of alcohol, guns, or ATVs/UTVs, but it is still reality. Public lands that are used for alcohol-fueled gatherings, recreational shooting, and off-roading also have the highest incidences of blatant abuse. So, if you are a drinker, shooter, or off-roader, please keep this in mind. Many who share your interests are actively destroying our public lands.
I recently made a new video that shows some of the ridiculous trashing of public lands around Ehrenberg, Arizona where I am currently camping. Please check it out (don’t worry, it’s short), and see if you do not agree that this is a problem that concerns each and every one of us.
To be honest, I am concerned that if this trend continues it may be difficult for me to find unspoiled public lands in my lifetime. As a father and grandfather, however, I am also concerned that my children and grandchildren may find it difficult to enjoy undefiled nature as I have for much of my life.
Please don’t trash our public lands!