Trash left at dispersed camping site in Dalton Canyon last weekend. Courtesy/USDA Forest Service
SANTA FE ― Trash is an all-too-common sight on the Santa Fe National Forest. It’s everywhere – at developed recreation sites, at dispersed camping sites, in Wilderness, on trails and even in streams.
It seems clear that the “Pack It In, Pack It Out” mantra isn’t getting the job done. The Santa Fe National Forest is asking visitors to take one more step and “Pack It Home” to throw away with the household trash.
Estimates by Forest recreation staff indicate that the Santa Fe National Forest may spend as much as $250,000 a year just on trash clean-up and removal. That is a quarter of a million dollars that isn’t available for other things like facilities and trail maintenance, Forest officials said.
Even when visitors put their garbage in a plastic bag and leave it by a trash can or along the road, it causes problems. Animals lured by the scent tear up the bags and scatter garbage as they look for things to eat. Feeding on human garbage can alter natural behaviors wildlife need to survive, and mammals, birds and reptiles can be injured or killed by what they find in trash.
And a campsite strewn with garbage is not only unappealing to the next group of visitors, it also poses health and safety risks to the public and the Forest Service employees who are tasked with cleaning it up.
“The majority of the people who come to the Santa Fe to recreate and enjoy their public lands do so responsibly. But the small number who don’t respect the environment or their fellow visitors can ruin the experience for everyone else,” Forest Supervisor Maria T. Garcia said. “Please help us keep our Forest clean and safe by taking all your trash home with you.”