Flagstaff AZ (May 19, 2020) – Every year, national forests in Arizona deal with trash being dumped and left behind by members of the public and irresponsible campers, and this problem continues to be widespread and increasing across Coconino National Forest.
Forest Service personnel are encountering garbage piles stacked up along forest roads—some even right in front of large signs that state there is no garbage service and to take your trash with you. When one person leaves their garbage bag behind, it attracts others to leave theirs—resulting in trash bags stacked up, making the national forest look like a dump site.
Leaving your garbage behind creates an array of problems. Not only are these dump sites visually obtrusive, they often contain materials that may not decompose naturally in our lifetime. Protection of wildlife habitat and groundwater quality is also at stake. The groundwater that originates in northern Arizona national forests is the same groundwater that supplies water to areas such as Phoenix.
One trade-off is Forest Service employees and volunteers are having to redirect some of their time to pick up garbage at the expense of other important programs for the forest and community.
Disappointingly, the national forest will continue to look like a dump site, as the Forest Service does not have enough personnel to provide garbage services over the 1.8 million acres that comprises Coconino National Forest. With violators often returning to the national forest time and again, leaving their garbage behind, your national forest is becoming a landfill.
Please help take care of your national forest and heritage—especially as Memorial Day weekend approaches. Practice Leave No Trace ethics, and take your trash with you after you’ve enjoyed camping or visiting the national forest. Though violations are punishable up to $5,000 and/or six months in jail, unfortunately violators often get away with trashing the forest. This is not a Forest Service problem. This is a public problem—and one simple action of packing out what you pack in can solve it.