The responsibility remains on our shoulders
With the arrival of spring comes a sudden influx of people enjoying the outdoors. Our forests will play host to those with a passion for hiking and water enthusiasts will hit our lakes and rivers by the droves.
I, too, will spend my fair share of time amongst Mother Nature, as this is my favorite season. In fact, it’s not beyond the realm of possibilities that we will cross paths, as this is the time of the year when I practically spend more awakened hours in the outdoors than I do at home.
With literally millions of acres of public lands, lakes and rivers at our disposal, there is no shortage of places to see and things to do. We are fortunate in this sense, and should utilize these natural resources to their fullest.
However, it is crucial that we understand the importance of a responsibility we bear. That’s right — it’s on our shoulders to ensure Mother Nature’s splendor remains intact. We must be good stewards. And although our job sounds easy, one doesn’t have to search far to find examples of where we as humans have miserably failed.
I’m sure those of you who have spent much time kicking around amidst Mother Nature have personally experienced the aftermaths of both those who are oblivious to the significance of our duty and of those who do not care.
It’s not uncommon to happen upon a campsite that is littered with a deluge of trash. One never knows what they’ll find at these locations. Bottles, cans, plastic containers, paper towels, and dirty diapers are some of the common items left behind.
I find it perplexing why people are willing to carry these items to camp, but refuse to police the area and carry their trash home at the excursion’s end. It only makes sense that these items would prove lighter to carry out as they have since been emptied after their arrival.
Although aesthetic beauty, or lack thereof in these cases, should always be considered, the reasons for not trashing the forest go much deeper. We live in a very intricate ecosystem. Heavy rains are certainly capable of washing this trash into nearby streams.
One’s argument might be, “Well, we didn’t leave enough trash behind to hurt anything,” and this might be true. But those expressing this thought should bear in mind they’re not the only ones using the forest. And if enough people share their mindset, what initially appears as harmless could eventually prove a significant issue.
Speaking of water sources, extra care should be taken in their near vicinity. Even those of us who refuse to purposely show disregard of the outdoors are not immune to unknowingly posing a threat to our state’s greatest natural resource.
It is essential to tread lightly while in riparian areas. The environment alongside and in close vicinity of creeks, rivers and reservoirs is very fragile. Many plants, some of which are rare, depend upon a very specific habitat to survive.
That being said, we should be mindful of each and every step while trekking alongside these waterways. In fact, there might be times when we should literally make a short detour to avoid damaging a colony of rare or delicate plants. And even though it is most convenient to pitch a tent within a stone’s throw of a creek, backpackers should consider setting up camp a few hundred feet from the water source to ensure the riparian area isn’t trampled.
Although much damage can be done while afoot, that’s no indication that others should ignore or show no respect to the forest floor. As do many, I enjoy riding ATVs, and I’ve been known to lock the hubs and go places only a four-wheel-drive could tread.
However, I am also aware these machines can play havoc on the environment unsurpassed. And where might these rigs prove most enjoyable? You got it. Right in the heart of fragile environments.
I’ll be the first to agree that avoiding this type of terrain can prove practically overwhelming. But we must demonstrate enough self control to ensure the well-being of our forest and its inhabitants.
How about those rigs not powered by a combustible engine? Well, they also can prove a thorn in Mother Nature’s side. In fact, I can recall a daily mountain bike ride along a dim trail I traversed several years ago.
At first I noticed little more than what I considered a well-used path. But with time, this route became well-beaten. And with the wet season, the trail grew rutted and literally began to erode.
We’ve certainly been blessed with a bountiful forest. And with a little tender love and care we can look forward to a future of enjoying the wonderful outdoors.