Forest officials fed up with visitors leaving behind garbage

New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A complete disregard for nature by the people who are supposed to be enjoying it. The U.S. Forest Service is fed up after visitors continue to treat out National Forests like a garbage can.

Recreation areas in the Lincoln National Forest have been hot spots for tourists and people just wanting to get out in nature but since the beginning of the pandemic, the Forest Service has been struggling to keep up with all the trash people leave behind.

“We’re seeing all kinds of different trash and a huge increase of [sic] the amount we’re seeing. We’ve done a number of things to try to address the misuse we’ve been seeing in the forest,” said Laura Rabon, public affairs officer for the Lincoln National Forest.

Rabon says they only have 14 staff members and two law enforcement officers to cover the 1.1 million acres of land which has been a non-stop job. Over Labor Day weekend alone, they saw about 30,000 visitors.

“Well, what we saw this weekend and what prompted me to take action was the response that we saw, I posted a personal photo from a friend who actually saw the dumpsters and a photo where cows were feeding on the trash that was out,” said Jenna Hardie, founder of Friends of the Lincoln National Forest.

Crews have had to haul away full-sized couches, stoves, and other large items. The National Forest says they’ve done everything except close recreation areas which isn’t off the table. They’ve added more and more dumpsters but they say they more dumpsters they put out, the more the trash seems to grow.

“We’ve increased the number of dumpsters that we’ve put out. We’ve been putting dumpsters in places that we’ve never had to put dumpsters before because people previously have been taking care of the land and packing out their trash with them. We’ve also increased the size of the dumpsters,” said Rabon.

The Forest Service says those dumpsters cost $400 per week, per dumpster to maintain; money that’s taken away from other forest projects. Now, a non-profit called Friends of the Lincoln National Forest is stepping in to help.

“It’s a Friends of Lincoln National Forest nonprofit, that actually partners with the Forest Service and offers some additional resources that they may need to address these kinds of issues as well as educate the public on best practices on packing in and packing out,” said Hardie.

The non-profit has started a GoFundMe to help with their cleanup and education efforts.

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