Don’t be a shitty public lands owner

I don’t want to write about human shit. I really don’t. There are hundreds of other things I’d rather write about and should be writing about. But I feel compelled because the last couple of years, while hunting, I came across five piles of human shit right next to or directly on public land parking areas. Huge piles of people shit. Sometimes there were unnecessarily large wads of toilet paper on top of the piles. Sometimes I’d see long strands of toilet paper with brown streaks flying off over the prairie grass, getting hung up on sage brush. When I first considered writing about this topic I thought I might go in to detail about my shitty experiences, but I think you can probably imagine what it is like. If you’ve spent any time in the woods, you’ve most likely had similar ones. Be thankful I didn't include photos of these finds. Although, to the people whose shit I found, I might offer a piece of unsolicited advice: eat better food. These piles of shit, although the most disgusting and most memorable, are not the only things I’ve found scattered about our public lands when I’m hunting. There is a type of public land user who seems to think our shared landscapes - places that were set aside for wildlife, recreation and the nourishment of our soul - are a dump. People who think these places exist only to be used how they see fit and treated carelessly. I find empty beer cans lying in my path. I find old bike helmets, used condoms, candy bar wrappers, energy drink cans, empty shotgun shells, used hand warmer packets, toilet paper and, of course, human shit. Sometimes I find animals that someone has killed and left lying - proving to his buddies what a man he is. I find ruts and tracks where people drove in places they shouldn’t have. In my walks through the prairies and the woods I never fail to find the evidence that this type of public land user has preceded me. I doubt anyone who treats our public lands like this can be reached through an ethical appeal. Although, I do point to these experiences when hunters complain about some private landowners not allowing public hunting. The stories I’ve heard from ranchers would make any ethical hunter cringe in embarrassment. This may seem like a small problem to some readers compared to the current threats to our public lands; selling them off, shrinking the boundaries of protected areas, impacts from climate change, and our current Interior Secretary’s fetish with energy dominance. The list goes on and on. To me though, all the threats, including trash on our public lands, come from the same mentality. They come from the person who thinks public lands are only places to be used, places to extract from, places for more and more consumption, whether the prize be game, oil, coal, gas or timber. I was struck by a passage out of Wendell Berry’s essay A Native Hill. And it made me think some of what our public lands need is not more owners, but more friends.
“The false and truly belittling transcendence is ownership. The hill has had many owners, but it has had few friends. But I wish to be its friend, for I think it serves its friends well. It tells them they are fragments of its life. In its life, they transcend their years.”
**Photos of trash provided by a friend to our public lands, Nancy Anderson Porter.

7 Comments on “Don’t be a shitty public lands owner

  1. Living on the north rim of San Francisco Bay – with a big population – we have litter and trash problems. But poop along hiking trails? That (thankfully) is something I haven’t ever seen. Or stepped in (sorry!).

  2. Amen. A LONG-time peeve of mine. Exposing what a land of expectations we have become. That seemingly growing segment with expectations: that they are so special and privileged that Good Fairies should follow them, providing, nurturing, and cleaning their diapers.

  3. Stepping over a pile of shit and toilet paper on Reno’s main drag close to Harrah’s certainly took away the glamour echoing Vegas fame —-forever. Giving my year-old West Highland White Terrior a bath after she rolled in human shit left in Pioneer Park 1997 was gag-worthy as well.
    I have similar reactions to hiking the “Rocky Fastness” in the Beartooths and happen upon a self-appointed target practice site. Lofty phrases of Montana Wilderness fall flat as a cow-pie.
    Many frontiers are buried under human shit and spent firecrackers.

  4. How timely, Alexis. Shit seems to be the topic of conversation the past couple days. When will people learn?!

  5. I cannot disagree. Just step behind many a bush on wilderness trails either near a convenient stream or around a campground to see that people can’t bring a shovel. Leave the land better than you found it dammit.

  6. I live in western Colorado near the one “big” city. The BLM administered lands that surround it are plagued with dozens of areas where people dump all kinds of stuff, large and small, some of which is turn shot to pieces with the spent brass and hulls left as a bonus. I’ve thought at length as to what to do about it. More enforcement? Better public service messages? Maybe. One area I know of had a cleanup sponsored by a local off road club and the BLM paid to have 3 shipping containers on site. They filled them up. Now, less than a year later the area is back to what it was with shot up appliances, piles of spent shotgun shells at every turnout, even abandoned cars. People are slobs. Our so called civilization will be discovered under the piles of our time proof garbage.

  7. I so agree with these comments. As a now retired former 37 year employee of the BLM and an avid public land hunter, I am often disgusted on what people leave behind on their hunting trips. Number one for me is the never ending reams of toilet paper left next to a gate or hung up on the sagebrush. Next are all the beverage containers and food wrappers. There are so many ways of disposing (or hiding) your garbage, so the next person to come along does not have to endure this misuse of public lands. I make it a point to always include this topic when I teach hunter education. Maybe tomorrow’s hunters will respect the public lands the way so many do today!

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