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A Challenge: Cleaning Our Public Lands

Every person who chooses to invest their free time in the outdoors has seen it. Its absence is an oddity due to its unfortunate regularity in most outdoor recreational settings. In fact the only way you may not see it, is if you were to go to the most remote areas of the Earth. Sadly, sometimes that is not even the case. As you can tell in the title, I am eluding to the issue of garbage and its overwhelming and sometimes ironic presence in areas where most outdoor enthusiasts, like you and me, like to spend our time.

Garbage is unavoidable, I understand this. It will be wherever the human race is present. Natural events like floods, rain, and wind will carry the pollution to other areas and spread it as easily as it was discarded. This spread is unfortunate and we cannot control these variables that contribute to pollution's spread across our beautiful public and private recreation areas. But there are things that are in our control that can be done. In fact it starts with us, you and me.

Last year I decided to invest a lot of time my and effort into fly fishing. It was something that I really wanted to learn and use as an excuse to explore new areas in Idaho and enjoy them throughout the year. I would head to the river as much as I could. I enjoyed great fishing days and had learning days where more snags were caught than fish. Everyone has them. It seemed though, that even my best days were overshadowed by my walk to and from the water. Seeing all the garbage that was just discarded in these beautiful areas would really bother me and would make me admittedly angry.

I was able to realize that my reaction was hypocritical and childish. I would be angry that people would disrespect our public access, public land, the environment, the ecosystem, and the animals that live in it. Even though I was not littering myself, I was getting all riled up and do nothing about it. Yet, I would go home with no garbage sacks or even the smallest amount of garbage. I was not doing enough to try and address the issue.

To address it I knew that it would be difficult to try and call people out on it. Most likely the people would get defensive and upset or even mad. It could cause people to do it more just to push my buttons. Understanding that people would get defensive and the issue would still be happening during all of the fighting and finger pointing. I felt that the best thing to do would to just get started and share my experience on social media with the hopes that those who see it would be inspired enough to do it themselves next time they were outdoors.

I started doing this in the late fall of last year. As I shared my experiences and pictures on social media people would be supportive. They even shared their techniques to cleaning the areas that they used, even if it was not their own mess. Some people shared their pictures of their own garbage hauls as well. One of the better ideas that was shared was that a family would bring a five gallon bucket with them to fish. When they called it a day they would tell everyone to fill the bucket up with any and all the garbage that they were able to find. This, I thought, was a great way to not only clean up areas but to teach the up and coming generations of how they should take care of the land that they use.

As human beings and inhabitants of this beautiful earth we should feel an obligation to take care of it in any way possible. It only starts with one step, an example set by you, to help not only spread the word but to also inspire others who are willing to join in. It is common sense and easy to see the benefits of taking care of places that outdoor enthusiasts like to recreate. To me the benefits fare out weigh and out number the costs, which come to think of are very minimal if not, nonexistent.

I would like to offer a challenge to everyone. When you are out, clean up as much as you can. It could be just a simple piece of garbage on the side of a hiking trail or a left over empty container of nightcrawlers next to the river. Or it could just mean keeping a pair of gloves and a trash bag in your tackle box or your gear you go out with. You picking it up makes a difference, even if it is hard to notice or see in the beginning. I challenge you to do this and take pictures of it. Share it with me on my Instagram or Facebook, or here. I would love to see it and be inspired by you. It's an investment but a worthwhile one.

As a final thought. I would like to end with a quote that I have always loved since I first heard it, " It is not ours. It is just our turn". Take that for what it's worth.

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