Tuesday, November 28, 2023


The trashing of our public lands. Case in point

The message below was posted September 10 in our Facebook group Crowded Campgrounds by a representative of New Mexico’s Lincoln National Forest. I doubt very much the readers of this newsletter would contribute to this sort of trashing of our public lands. I suggest that if you have any place to pass along this story – on your social media page, for example – please do so; perhaps it will help spread the word that this sort of behavior is unacceptable. —C Woodbury, editor

This past weekend, the National Forest was met with significant feedback on the state of the forest in areas such as Bluff Springs outside of Cloudcroft. Many people were upset and angry about what they saw and, to be frank, so were we.

Over the last several months, we have tried a number of things to keep these areas pristine for you to enjoy, but we are running out of options.

As we’ve all experienced, 2020 has been an abnormal year and has impacted the National Forest significantly. With state parks closed to non-residents, the racetrack closed, and all of the fishing areas at capacity, visitation has exploded in the Lincoln National Forest. Over Labor Day weekend, we estimated 30,000 visitors came to the forest and nearby towns, many of which did not follow the Leave No Trace principles, which means leaving this shared space free of garbage and properly picking camping spots so as to not harm the forest. 

To put this number in perspective, our entire forest recreation staff is 14 people and we have 2 law enforcement officers to cover 1.1 million acres. Our crews work hard to protect your public land, but we can’t keep up any longer given the sheer amount of trash, abandoned campfires and vandalism we are seeing.  

What We’ve Tried
The Forest Service’s mission is first and foremost to protect the health of the forest, not to pick up trash. Like all of our forest, Bluff Springs has always been a “Pack It In – Pack It Out” area and until just a few months ago, there were no trash services there at all because people respected the land and cleaned up after themselves.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first began back in March and the country knew little about the disease, Bluff Springs was closed via an official forest closure order. We locked the restrooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as instructed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We experienced people breaking into restrooms and stuffing their trash inside and into the toilets. Our crew was tasked with cleaning it up.

More and More Dumpsters
To avoid any more vandalism, we reopened sites across the forest and had “animal resistant” dumpsters placed at various sites. A few days later, the dumpsters were overflowing, so we doubled up on the dumpsters. The same thing occurred: overflowing trash almost immediately. Once again, we increased the size of the dumpsters to full-size roll-offs, which costs $400 per week, per dumpster, to maintain at these No-Fee locations. Every dollar spent on removing trash takes away from other projects. The forest has paid to haul away multiple full-sized couches, loveseats, chairs, stoves, tools and other outlandish items in addition to the literal tons of trash removed each week.

 ‘We have never before seen this level of complete disregard for nature by people who come to enjoy it and we, as a whole, are disheartened by it.’ 

Our crews still continue to dedicate their time to clean these areas, taking away precious time to help improve other areas of the forest. At Bluff Springs and nearby camp spots it took our crews 8 hours to pick up the trash on the ground by hand, which equated to three dump truck loads, four pickup loads, and two flatbed trailers in addition to the roll-off dumpster… and that was just from the post-Labor Day weekend clean up. We hoped that people would do the right thing and not leave their trash on the ground for wildlife to eat and become sick; but that has not been the case.

We have also increased patrols and enlisted the help of our county sheriff offices to help police highly recreated areas, but they cannot be everywhere all the time.

New Considerations
The overuse and extensive trash are damaging the forest and putting wildlife at risk. The more dumpsters we put out, the more the trash seems to grow. Therefore, a task force has been established to come up with options on how best to manage these sites in these unprecedented times. We are reviewing several options but are also considering closing these areas in an effort to address these ongoing challenges. The areas have once again been cleaned up, but we know it’s only a matter time before we will need to go back out unless something changes. 

What You Can Do
It is up to all of us to take care of the forest. With that being said, we are asking you to do one simple thing: Take your trash with you. Please help us spread the word to Pack It In – Pack It Out. Do not leave trash in the forest, even if it’s next to a dumpster. Trash bags break easily, and animals will get into them. If you wish to do more, the public can help by volunteering at National Public Lands Day clean-up projects taking place later this month. The forest is not a dumping ground; it is a beautiful place filled with wildlife, flowers, streams, and trees that rely on you to do your part and LEAVE NO TRACE.


Chuck Woodbury
Chuck Woodburyhttps://rvtravel.com
I'm the founder and publisher of RVtravel.com. I've been a writer and publisher for most of my adult life, and spent a total of at least a half-dozen years of that time traveling the USA and Canada in a motorhome.



0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Joseph Pollak (@guest_189464)
1 year ago

This is why aliens lock their doors when they fly by “humanoids” and want nothing to do with us .So many people are just plain disrespectful of our environment and other people. This happens any place where masses of people congregate. Ever go to a beach in the summertime in any major city? Same situation. People leave their discards all over the place and “let” someone else clean up after them. I see people throw trash out the window while driving on the road all the time. Same mentality. Maybe we should just allow a manageable number of people to enter the Parks, Beaches, etc. at one time. They would only be able to “visit” for a small period of time and their site evaluated before leaving. If they violated any litter laws they would be barred from parks and beaches, fined and prosecuted or required to serve public service as a clean up crew in these places. A ZERO litter tolerance law.

Marc Stauffer (@guest_131571)
2 years ago

Sad to see what depths our society has fallen. Even if caught there are little in the way of repurcussions for the guilty party. Until we make the punishment for such acts uncomfortable enough ( such as a summer of weekends doing grounds maintenance and cleanup) this behavior will only get worse.

P schutt (@guest_102032)
3 years ago

This dump anywhere may be new to campgrounds but has been an issue for towns and citie for quite sometime. Cameras are becoming the supervision of dumping areas but as long as people get away with free dumping they will continue this act.

Kathy Cloninger (@guest_97646)
3 years ago

The trash in these dumpsters may include trash from locals bringing to dump. Very Sad…

You Get What You Pay For (@guest_97458)
3 years ago

That sure looks like locals who know they can get away with it. A few good folks volunteering for a couple of weeks to stake out and call the authorities as soon as this happens might work, but would put people at risk. It is unfortunate that our local and national forests and parks are no longer receiving the funding they need to operate and police these lands properly. Something to do with cutting taxes and fattening the pockets of “job creators”. That point of view neglects the quality of service on our public lands that are there for all of us, and fails to mention the good solid jobs that are lost when valuable government programs are cut.

Gordy (@guest_97437)
3 years ago

Chuck, This article (as well as several other articles) I have tried to share on Facebook are met with the same message “user opted out”. How can we share if you do not make it shareable? I hope this can be changed in the future so we can do our part.

RV Staff
3 years ago
Reply to  Gordy

Hi, Gordy. I’m checking with Jessica, our Social Media expert, to see what’s going on. Thanks for asking. 🙂 —Diane at RVtravel.com

Jessica Sarvis (@guest_97714)
3 years ago
Reply to  Gordy

I’ve tested all of the share buttons as well as manually sharing and I haven’t been able to recreate your issue. Things seem to be sharing just fine. It might be an issue with your Facebook user settings although I don’t know the solution for this specific problem. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you further!

Belinda Powers (@guest_97432)
3 years ago

Related topic. Closed rest areas…The State of WYO, for decades, has been very dependent on minerals taxes for their operating expenses. With minerals revenue significantly depleated ( little coal, oil, or natural gas production is occuring) the State of WYO has had to cut back, and more cuts are coming. They chose to close several rest areas, due to tight budgets. They post on signs, many miles ahead of time, that they are closed. Folks have the option to find a public restroom at a gas station instead. The state chose to close those which are near towns, and not close those that are isolated. But folks walk past the gates that block access to the rest areas, and defecate behind the buildings, or in neighboring areas. Human waste is a huge problem now, at many of them. There have been many news articles about it, this summer. eeewwwww

tom horn (@guest_97430)
3 years ago

Believe or not some of the same people that are trashing the parks and camping areas are the same protesters and rioters that are trashing some of our major cities. There code of conduct is to make as many good guys as miserable as they possibly can and burn down the forest while they are at it.

tim palmer (@guest_97512)
3 years ago
Reply to  tom horn

No, those “trasher” are definitely locals. If they are dumping furniture and other “bulk” waste items it is most likely because their town or county doesn’t provide a way for them to dump those items.
The same thing was happening in The Pine Barrens in southern NJ. The towns had the policy of not taking “bulk” waste so the residents had no way to get rid of it. So, they just dumped out in the pines.
The towns and county finally wised up and provided pick up and dumping sites for bulk waste and now the illegal dumping has dropped off considerably.

Tom Horn (@guest_97626)
3 years ago
Reply to  tim palmer

Right, I agree, that is why I stated that SOME of the people that are trashing the forest are the same type of people that are into the destruction of what normal people enjoy doing and being around either in the big city or out in the boonies. There will always be someone that is looking to get out of the furniture business. If a person does not want to litter they will find a way to get rid of the waste legally.

William gibson (@guest_97837)
3 years ago
Reply to  tom horn

where did you get that info about the protesters and the forest and the camping and how did they identify them

Tom Horn (@guest_97889)
3 years ago
Reply to  William gibson

Wg, we saw some new out of LA, a couple of post on face book and a friend of mine that lives outside of Portland filled me in.. SOME of the trouble makers are using the forest as regrouping areas to plan there new attacks, rest up, get resupplied and of course, cause some destruction while they are there. They are getting support from SOME locals. Have you noticed that a lot of the trouble makers are wearing back packs, most do not live in the area and in some cases even in the state that they are burning. Bus fare paid for by GS and AS

Last edited 3 years ago by Tom Horn
Elizabeth Wright (@guest_97417)
3 years ago

This has been going on for years, but it has increased. People who don’t want to pay for (or can’t afford) regular trash pickup will find a place to dump their garbage, either by a dumpster or by the side of the road. It happens in Metro areas, too. Trail cameras could be used to capture license plate numbers and more funding should be provided for additional park staff.

Suru (@guest_97416)
3 years ago

This story is so sad. I wonder how much of this is from people who were actually using the lands and camping, or from people who see a dumpster and think “Great, now I have a place to dump my old couch!” There is a home being built next door to me and they have a 40 yard roll-off for construction debris. Every night I see people trying to dump something in it like mattresses and old furniture. What’s funny is the dump in my town is FREE. People are just lazy and inconsiderate I guess.

John (@guest_97426)
3 years ago
Reply to  Suru

Lazy and Cheap. I had first moved into a new house and there was one dirt road access on one side. One night, I came home late, and saw a car pulling a trailer of stuff. I stopped and asked if he’s ok. He said, yeah, just checking my hitch. Next morning, going to work and what did I find. A pile of stuff, etc on that same turn I stopped to check if they are ok. They dumped their Junk right there, blocking the entire road. Dang, costs $9 at the dump. But they dump in a new residential area. People like this are pure trash themselves. I wish I figured it out that night. I never would have thought anyone would do this, especially when I stopped.

V. Bufalieri (@guest_97415)
3 years ago

Reading this has to make any responsible individual who enjoys the outdoors and respects our planet just livid.
Again it’s the old story of a few inconsiderate individuals who choose to push their filthy habits and selfish attitudes on to the rest of us. I am sure that their personal living space at home is a reflection of the dumpster.
Tell me this trash is being disposed of properly? That a government worker isn’t doing their job? Really? I have found Park employees to be some of the most dedicated folks out there and the most helpful.
The are no excuses for these individuals. But I bet a hefty fine will be some what convincing that the signage is present for a reason.

Michelle Van Sickle (@guest_97409)
3 years ago

I hate to say it but long before the pandemic, at one point Joshua Tree National Park had to be closed due to budget cuts and the same thing happened- vandalism, trash, campfires left- it was truly awful. What the hell is wrong with people? I don’t understand this at all. It’s disgusting!

Robert Willis (@guest_97435)
3 years ago

Amen to that and hope they don’t discover Arizona or San Diego.

Mary Habil (@guest_97577)
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Willis

Oh, they have already discovered Arizona. I rode horses in the Arizona desert for years. One day it would be a beautiful desert ride, the next day a whole trailer full of trash dumped in the desert, couches, mattress, etc. etc. etc. we would call the Sheriff, they would sift through the trash and hopefully find a name or address, then they would go to their house and they would get a fine and have to remove it. All the horse riders would go out and pick up on and around our trails. My Dad was a Boy Scout leader, when we got to any campsite he would have us kids go over our campsite with a fine tooth comb looking for trash, then again when we left. To this day that’s the first thing I do. At one campsite this year I picked up over 200 cigarette butts, now come on…..

C.Lee (@guest_97390)
3 years ago

Unfortunately, with the Governor of New Mexico continuing to keep State Parks closed to out of staters, this type of overuse will likely continue, at least until the weather gets cold. El Paso, Texas, and it’s suburbs are a heavily populated area, and their recreational outlets were New Mexico state parks in the southern half of the state. Not anymore. The New Mexico Governor has merely shifted the people from a location where there was enough staff and resources to protect the area, to an area on federal land where there is not. Given our governor’s propensity for being vindictive against those who oppose her, I suspect her continued actions could be intentional…she wanted the Feds to close down National Forests and BLM lands too, and they refused.

James Lawrence (@guest_97382)
3 years ago

This is just another example of how parents taught there children in the ‘I am entitled culture’. What do we expect from people whose parents did everything for them and expected nothing from them?

Tim Barton (@guest_97424)
3 years ago
Reply to  James Lawrence

It’s not just parents that need to teach their kids responsibility for taking care of nature and the environment. Those of us that care need to try and set an example by picking up all our own trash as well as that of others before leaving a campsite or day-use area. From the time my kids were young (and now my grandkids) I would go around the site with them and pick up paper and trash whether it was from us or others. My wife would tell them they needed to find at least five pieces of trash, or maybe more depending on the site, before we would leave. For many years I have kept trash bags gloves and garbage pickup tool in my truck and spend a little time cleaning a nature site while visiting. It is sad but I have little faith in my fellow man that they will learn to appreciate the beauty of nature and follow the “leave no trace” ethic. Bless those that do care and try to protect and respect nature.

YGWYPF (@guest_97459)
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Barton

Absolutely. It pisses me off when you come to an otherwise very nice dispersed camping spot that some low life decided to decorate with beer cans, or unbelievable types of junk. The worst are the idiots that cannot even dig a cat hole and seem to associate toilet paper with tagging. I was just out on the north side of Boulder Mtn. in Utah and found a nice hillside spot when I noticed stuff all over the place blowing around and stuck in the vegetation. Someone had unpacked an HP printer and several other boxed items. Styrofoam packing, foam peanuts, accessory bags, and boxes were spread out over a large area. Took me over 30 minutes to get most of it. Whenever I thought I had gotten everything I’d see more stuff stuck in the bushes somewhere else. So yes, there are jerks, but there are way more people that care, and we can and must keep these places clean. If we pickup all of our own stuff plus a few things other people missed or left behind, then everything can get cleaned up.

Roger B (@guest_102153)
3 years ago
Reply to  YGWYPF

When ever my wife and I are at BLM or National Forest camping there is trash to be picked up. From fast food trash to beer trash. The stuff that pisses me off the most is the beer trash. Cans, bottle caps, broken bottles. I think beer drinkers need to stay the hell home or start using a trash can. Can’t ever have a campfire without cleaning the beer cans out first.

Last edited 3 years ago by Roger B
Bob a. (@guest_97376)
3 years ago

I live is south Texas but have a home in the Ruidoso area. In our area of Texas the roadside dumping got so bad we started going through trash that was dumped looking for names so as to identify the perpetrators. The fines were heavy. The property owners were on the lookout for people throwing trash out the car window. License plate numbers were turned in and those people had to clean roadsides or pay hefty fines to cover the cost of clean up. We can’t expect government to do all the work. We citizens who enjoy the facilities must help. I can tell, if done properly, dumping will almost stop.

Jim Beauchamp (@guest_97368)
3 years ago

Close them down. If people can not follow rules and be conscientious, close tthem

Michelle Van Sickle (@guest_97410)
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Beauchamp

Unfortunately they had to close Joshua Tree year before last and that didn’t stop the trash and vandalism.

Tumbleweed (@guest_97354)
3 years ago

It has been my experience that campgrounds that are located a relatively short distance from towns are the most trashed up. The locals come and just dump their household trash there rather than pay for services at their homes. That’s why there are so many piles of clothes and toys left at these campgrounds. Perhaps a camp host is needed at every campground, or if there already is one there, maybe more than one are needed. They could then take down the license plate numbers of the trashers and report them to the authorities, who could then issue fines.

vwilmom (@guest_97383)
3 years ago
Reply to  Tumbleweed

I was a campground host for two seasons at a CoE campground. The locals would sneak in at night to dump. We tried our best to put a stop to it, but the locals figured out our days off and dumped then, too.

Kaputnick (@guest_97333)
3 years ago

I think this statement says it all:
“To put this number in perspective, our entire forest recreation staff is 14 people and we have 2 law enforcement officers to cover 1.1 million acres. Our crews work hard to protect your public land, but we can’t keep up any longer given the sheer amount of trash, abandoned campfires and vandalism we are seeing.“

Not all of the 1.1 million acres are accessible by vehicle so better enforcement in the
the areas that are should be a priority. Increasing the law enforcement officers might be a good start.

Gregory Giese (@guest_97322)
3 years ago

Looks like folks took their garbage to the dumpster. Also looks like someone forgot to empty the dumpster. Hard to criticize folks that disposed of their garbage properly and a government employee didn’t do their job. Were the full-timers supposed to take it with them? Where to?

Robert C (@guest_97355)
3 years ago
Reply to  Gregory Giese

Gregory Giese: it appears you missed part of the point/problem: small staff! No problem before low life’{bleeped} all of our national parks and campgrounds. Government clean up? Why is government blames here for the people’s disregard? This park never needed dumpsters until the ridiculousness of this pandemic struck at full speed. Yes, it looks to me like people are bringing trash from home to get “free dump service”. How are these people even able to look in a mirror and say” I did the right thing to this park, it’s beauty and my planet, today”? They don’t have a conscience. That’s how. Maybe, you should write the government about what this damaging pandemic is doing and ask for help in this crisis?

John (@guest_97427)
3 years ago
Reply to  Gregory Giese

If the trash is filled, take it out yourself to another location. Sadly, I watch this generation of people drive along on the street , open their door and drop their fast food trash out as they drive along. Their remark, “The city street sweepers will pick it up. Well, I followed where they lived – IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD-, I picked up their disposed trash and added some of mine, and tossed it on their car.

William gibson (@guest_97838)
3 years ago
Reply to  Gregory Giese

Well I don’t think that full timers should be staying at a free government land spot for long enough to generate trash that they cant pack out it has always been the rule for dispersal camping I seriously doubt that you can put the problem on to Fulltimers. the article said that the trash was left after the campers were gone and dumpsters get picked up either on a schedule or as needed and the rolloffs and dumpsters were handle by a trash service not a government employee who by the way have other duties if you red the same article as I did then you would understand that the area was a pack in pack out

Bob Palin (@guest_97316)
3 years ago

Obviously this is a disgrace, but did that trash really come from genuine forest visitors? Who brings a loveseat or a kid’s toy car to the forest then decides to leave them there? More likely local people heard there were dumpsters and used them. The Forest Service doesn’t always help itself either, I’ve been camped in the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho for the last 10 days, they have removed all the dumpsters and closed all but one of the dump stations, the weather is perfect for camping and there are plenty of people around. I find disposing of trash the most annoying thing about camping trips, am I supposed to carry it all around for weeks until I get home? Piles of trash bags in my fifth wheel?

Tumbleweed (@guest_97353)
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Palin

This isn’t a perfect solution, but I’m a boondocker and have always found trash cans in city parks, rest areas, gas stations, and occasionally Walmart parking lots into which to throw my trash.

Robert C (@guest_97356)
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Palin

If that’s what it takes, yes. It’s your trash, not the parks. When needed, we take our trash back home to a dump service we pay for. It’s a courtesy at the parks, not a requirement for public dumping access to free loaders and inconsiderate others.

wally (@guest_97441)
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert C

That may work for weekend campers, but what about campers on a two month trip?

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.