For decades, public lands have served as a backdrop across the stage of the American West. These lands have long contributed to the economic well-being of our communities and served our individual needs for recreation, solitude and relaxation.
In recent years, the importance of our public lands seems to be a more common topic of discussion in many circles. The proximity to public land has become a prominent advertising point for chambers of commerce, realtors, states, businesses, travel bureaus, hospital administrators, and a host of other endeavors wanting to attract people to their doorsteps. The availability of public land has now become a consideration when families move to a new location in the West.
Many Americans have come to consider our nation’s public lands as their common backyard and most share a concern about how those lands are used and managed. That concern tends to manifest itself as a sense of pride in your public lands.
However, there are always exceptions.
There are a few persistent individuals who still seem determined to literally trash public land. Over the years, there have been repeated dumping incidents in the Maiden and Limekiln Canyons in the Judith Mountains near Lewistown, and other scattered incidents on public land across central Montana. The garbage left behind has included furniture, appliances, wooden pallets, nail-filled planks, vehicle batteries, yard/tree debris, tires, scrap building supplies, old lawn mowers, old fencing materials, vehicles, and on and on.
In one recent instance, an individual chose to unload a pickup full of garbage on the Maiden Canyon Road. Dumping this garbage was not only illegal, but it was also a safety concern, an eyesore, and perhaps expressed just a little contempt for those who find a higher value in their public land.
Shortly after learning of the incident, a BLM law enforcement ranger located the individual responsible, issued a hefty citation (slightly less than $300), and directed the individual to drive back to the site, load the garbage and dispose of it properly. It would have been much easier and less expensive to dispose of the garbage properly the first time.
In this example, the BLM law enforcement ranger was able to quickly locate the responsible party. However, because of the remote nature of most public land, other violations are more difficult to resolve. The BLM enforcement rangers in central and northeast Montana work in an area from Roundup to the Canadian border and from Great Falls to the North Dakota border.
“It’s a huge area, but our rangers are constantly on patrol. They do a great job of helping visitors with questions and much of their work involves information and education. They also assist other law enforcement entities when requested, provide a consistent BLM presence on public land, and investigate the violations that occur on public lands. We also receive a helping hand (information) from the visiting public concerning violations. As more and more people share their sense of pride in our public lands, they tend to become more involved in the public land management process. If you see a violation on public lands, gather what contact information you can (license number, vehicle description, etc.), note the day, time and area then turn the information over for us to pursue,” offered Stan Benes, BLM’s Lewistown field manager.
“We certainly encourage everyone to enjoy their public lands and to treat those lands just as you would your own backyard. For many, these lands do serve as our backyards and we certainly appreciate the continued help the public can provide when they witness dumping or other violations on our public lands,” Benes said.
To report illegal dumping or other natural resource violations, call 1-800-TIPMONT.