Few things ruin a day afield like rounding a corner on a beautiful woods road and coming upon a pile of trash that somebody else left in the woods.
Building materials, house garbage and even unwanted boats have been discarded in the Maine woods over the years. Again this year, the Maine Warden Service and the Maine Forest Service are joining forces to organize their fifth landowner appreciation cleanup day on Sunday, Sept. 9.
Wardens and forest rangers have identified dozens of sites across the state that need attention, and they’re encouraging civic organizations and outdoor clubs to join a good-natured trash-picking competition.
The goal: Make the forests cleaner, and show the state’s private landowners that those who use those lands appreciate the opportunity to do so.
Over the last four years of the cleanup effort, crews have removed an average of 250,000 pounds of trash each year, said Rick LaFlamme, the landowner relations expert for the Maine Warden Service.
Cooperating with landowners is essential if Mainers want to continue to be allowed to use their property, he said.
“Maine is 94 percent privately owned, and without the private landowners [allowing recreation on their land] recreation in Maine is going to be shut down,” LaFlamme said. “Some of these landowners are one bag of trash away from shutting [access] down. It’s the number one reason land gets shut down.”
Wardens, rangers and clubs are in the process of documenting sites that need attention. Right now, a list of 40 to 50 sites has been compiled. By Sept. 9, LaFlamme expects that list to include between 100 and 130 sites.
Both wardens and rangers are proactively attacking the problem of woodland dumping by cleaning sites throughout the year, and by working hard to catch those who are leaving the trash, he said.
But focusing extra effort on a cleanup day each year helps send the right message, he said.
“It’s a great event because there are so many people involved,” LaFlamme said. “It’s doing a lot of good.”
Clubs can sign up for the event by contacting Virginia Vincent at 287-5240 or Virginia.Vincent@maine.gov. Among the information you’ll be asked to provide: The name of your organization and how many people are participating; the area of the state you’d be willing to target during the cleanup; a contact person with email address and known cleanup sites that you’ll be working on.
The Kittery Trading Post has provided gift cards for the top four placing organizations. First prize will receive $1,000, second receives $750, third $500 and fourth $250.
The warden and forest services will provide sites for participants to take the trash. For purposes of the contest, the trash will be measured by the truckload.
And LaFlamme said any organization is welcome to participate.
“Some of ‘em think this [effort] just means [hunters should help out]. It doesn’t,” LaFlamme said. “The dog walkers, the bikers, the hikers, it means them, too. We need their help, too. We’re in this fight together, and we all need to help out the landowners.”
For more information about the contest or the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Outdoor Partners Program, contact Rick LaFlamme at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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