DAKOTA REPORT: By Doug Leier
Many of my outdoors destinations tend to attract higher use than a secluded badlands nook, a Turtle Mountains hideout or even a tucked away Missouri Coteau wetland.
I spend plenty of time fishing at busy public access points, and hunting public land where sometimes there might be others who have the same idea.
While I may be walking for pheasants in the same area where another hunter is planning on watching the sunset from a treestand, we each have varied interests and a mutual appreciation for what we have in North Dakota’s outdoors. Even when I’m sharing the land with others, there’s a unique connection of ownership and individual use.
The fact is, most users appreciate public and private hunting and fishing areas, and treat them with respect and care, so the next person who comes along can kind of feel like it’s their own little secret spot.
The opposite of that sort of “appreciative” mindset is the folks who carelessly or purposely leave behind obvious reminders of their presence in the form of litter.
Whether it’s a crew thinking it’s inconvenient to pick up the scraps from a field lunch, someone depositing a bag full of trash at a wildlife management area, or a little styrofoam worm cup floating in the water off the fishing pier, it’s a scenario that just doesn’t have to happen.
While we typically associate littering problems with warmer weather seasons, it happens in the winter, too. Just substitute fish waste, beverage containers and cigarette butts left behind on the ice.
It’s safe to say that hardly anyone heads out the door for the day with the intention of littering, and nobody who fishes or hunts enjoys seeing someone else’s trash. Doesn’t matter if it’s two hours or two months old. Trash is trash.
While sinking a bottle or can on a lake in summer is out of sight, out of mind, it’s still illegal. So is burying your cans or other trash under the snow while ice fishing. While that may temporarily remove the cans from view, come spring when the snow melts, those same bottles, cans, or deer sausage packages will turn into eyesores just the same.
My purpose in pointing all this out is not to get game wardens’ phones ringing off the hook, or telling winter anglers to set up surveillance and report every wax worm container left behind. I’d rather each individual take responsibility to clean up when you leave the ice. Even if it’s not yours, pick it up and put it in a trash can, or take it along home and discard it properly.
That goes for fish, too. If you clean fish on the ice, take the scraps with you when you leave. It’s illegal to dump leftover minnows down a hole in the ice, or dump them out on the ice. Take them with you as well.
I think you get the picture. Litter is not a good thing. But it is a controllable part of the outdoors that we can all help each other with, and winter is a good time for a refresher that it’s a year-round concern.