As the summer begins,he northern half of the Tonto National Forest has a tremendous increase in recreational activity.
Fishing, hiking and camping become weekend getaways to escape the heat of the Valley for thousands of visitors to the local ponderosa pine forests. With the long summer days, the residents of the Payson area willlso take advantage of short trips during the week into the wide expanses ofhe Tonto.
With the increased population of Arizona and the heavy summer use of the recreational areas, an emerging problem of litter becomes apparent. Many of the easy to reach streams are plagued with the ever-increasingssue of garbage being left for someone else to pick up, with the mindset that this is the responsibility of the employees of the national forests.
The Tonto National Forest does not have the funding or manpower to patrol the woods after a weekend for the purpose of garbage cleanup.
I have seen at the popular camping areas on the East Verde bags of garbage left that were ripped apart by critters within hours of a camp being abandoned. The more popular trails and fishing holes always seem to have empty plastic water bottles and aluminum cans left as evidence of previous hikers or fishermen.
"Pack it in, Pack it out" really does have meaning to all of us who use the national forests of the West.
It takes very little effort to have a plastic bag or carry a daypack that can be used to store litter that may beound along the trails. This simple responsibility will go a long way in returning some of our streams to the onceristine waters they were. It is an old, and yes, still a valuable lesson of leaving an area better because you walked through it.
Pat Cline, of the pioneer ranch family of Star Valley, had a solution a generation ago when some Valley deer hunters left their garbage in the Tonto.
She spent time to rummage through the debris and found an envelope with a name and address of the litterbug. Pat leaned up the area and bagged the garbage and on her next trip to the Valley emptied the litter on the front lawn of the guilty culprits. I have a feeling a valuable lesson was learned that day.
Local residents Pat and Alita Fogarty are weekend hikers in the northern Tonto and on their last trip near the Control Road, they came upon three deserted campshich hadnough garbage left behind to fill the bed of their pickup.
Alita mentioned, "It was so discouraging that they just turned around and went home." This is a problem that appears only to be getting worse.
I saw a sign a few years ago that has made a tremendous impact upon my thinking in regards to litter left in the woods. On the sign there was a list of often discarded items and their projected life expectancy left in the elements. was amazed that the following garbage left on the ground would last so long beforet would decompose.
- Plastic coated cartons, five years; cigarette butts, 10-12 years; plastic bags, 10-20 years; plastic containers, 50-80 years; aluminum foil, 80-100 years; and Styrofoam, never.
These statistics should trigger a personal responsibility for all of us to do our part in keeping our national forests a better place for camping, hiking, fishing and hunting. President Teddy Roosevelt, an avid hunter and angler, stated it perfectly "the national forests to be used and enjoyed for all future generations."
It is our responsibility to keep them clean of litter, so do your part, leave them in better shape because you were there. Leave nothing but footprints as you hike the canyons and ridges of the national forests in the Rim Country, God's creation.