RBC I Westerners take great pride in their independent and self-sufficient nature, but that spirit is not always evident in the backcountry when people leave their trash for “someone else” to remove.
Earlier this month, a Colorado man was sentenced to federal prison as punishment for massive littering, including leaving approximately 8,500 pounds of trash and debris in an encampment near Telluride.
The man was convicted of residing on National Forest System (NFS) lands, maintaining a structure on NFS lands and leaving debris on NFS lands. It took a crew of 48 volunteers, numerous staff and a helicopter to clean up his mess.
While the Telluride case is particularly egregious, the scenario of abandoned structures and debris plays out every year on NFS lands, and can be especially troublesome when high visitation brings more people to the backcountry to hunt
The remote areas of the White River National Forest that are recognized for healthy big game populations are also susceptible to abuse by visitors who leave trash or cached items they plan to use on return visits.
Every year, crews haul truckloads and pack strings of trash and cached camp supplies off of the Blanco Ranger District. Many of the most littered sites are in the popular hunting grounds near Morapos and Salt Park, where the White River and Routt national forests share a border.
In addition to being unethical, it is illegal to build structures or to abandon personal property or debris on National Forest System lands. Visitors who violate these federal regulations face fines. They may also be required to make a mandatory court appearance and to pay for the cost of reclaiming sites and removing debris.
“People recognize the value of this area for big game populations, and this piece of public land provides a great resource to a lot of folks,” said Ken Coffin, Blanco District Ranger. “All we ask is that if you pack it in, you pack it out. It’s that simple.”