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Officials urge public to clean up trash when visiting public lands, national forests

If you're planning to visit public lands or national forests during Memorial Day weekend, officials are asking that you recreate safely and responsibly.

PHOENIX — If you're planning to visit public lands or national forests during Memorial Day weekend, officials are asking that you recreate safely and responsibly. 

The Bureau of Land Management said in a press release Thursday that visitors are asked to follow public health guidelines, come prepared, be flexible and respect others as well as natural and cultural resources on public lands.

“This Memorial Day, please take time to remember and honor those men and women who gave their lives to protect our nation and the values we hold dear," William Perry Pendley, the department's deputy director for policy and programs, said in a statement.

"And if you do choose to get outside on your public lands with friends and family over the weekend, please do so responsibly and safely."

The department also released recreation tips for visitors:

  • Stay home if you don’t feel well or have recently been sick.
  • Follow guidance from local and state authorities, as well as the CDC.
  • Avoid heavily used or crowded trails, parking areas, and sites and seek dispersed recreation opportunities in your local area. Have a backup plan to avoid crowded high-use areas. If you find an area to be crowded, turn around.
  • Check with local offices for current conditions, including closures and changes in service, before visiting popular areas and visit blm.gov for operating status updates.
  • Practice social distancing. Be considerate of others enjoying the outdoors by giving them as much space as possible in parking lots, at trailheads, and out on public lands.
  • Help prevent human-caused wildfires. Completely extinguish campfires by using the “drown, stir and feel” method. Don’t park on dry grass and ensure tow chains aren't dragging and tow straps are secured. Observe fire danger restrictions on BLM lands designated as high-risk early in this fire season. Follow fireworks restrictions and target shooting requirements at all times.
  • Avoid unnecessary risks while recreating to prevent overwhelming medical facilities.
  • Bring supplies for sanitation with you and pack out your trash. Facilities, including bathrooms and visitor centers may not be open or available for in-person contact.

The Coconino National Forest also urged campers to clean their trash if they are planning on visiting. 

Forest officials said every year national forests in Arizona deal with trash from members of the public and irresponsible campers and that the issue "continues to be widespread and increasing across Coconino National Forest."

Forest officials stressed that leaving garbage creates an array of problems, including potentially contaminating wildlife and groundwater. 

"Protection of wildlife habitat and groundwater quality is also at stake," forest officials said in a press release. 

"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."

"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."

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