When do you speak up? Since many of the contributors on these forums are very experienced backpackers, I thought Iíd share this survey that came out of an on-going correspondence with a couple of rangers in our wilderness areas. So here is the scene: You are a backpacker two days in from a trailhead. You find someone in the wilderness doing the following activity. Do you
A. Ignore the activity and hike away? B. Notify them that the activity violates USFS policy? C. Notify them that the activity violates USFS policy and ask them to stop? D. Take a photo to document the activity? E. Step in and stop/fix the problem? F. Report the activity to the authorities when you hike out? G. Other?
And the activities we identified;
1.Building a new fire ring 2.Chopping up or down a tree for fire wood 3.Hiking with a dog where it is forbidden 4.Fishing with bait in a fly-fishing only stream 5.Feeding wildlife 6.Leaving a fire or coals unattended 7.Littering 8.Hiking in a group that is larger than allowed 9.Camping in an illegal area or illegal/closed campsite 10.Mining with a pick and shovel
This is not intended to start a firestorm---it is a serious attempt to ask folks here what they would do. And since I am posing the question, itís only fair that I provide the first set of answers:
1.Building a new fire ringónever seen someone actually doing this. Probably B 2.Chopping up or down a tree for fire wood. B, C, D, F 3.Hiking with a dog where it is forbidden. B and/or C, D and F. 4.Fishing with bait in a fly-fishing only stream. B 5.Feeding wildlife. B, CÖ.maybe more. I havenít seen this 6.Leaving a fire or coals unattended. E, certainly. Maybe B, C and F 7.Littering. E, usually. We always pack out trash. If I see someone doing it, then B. 8.Hiking in a group that is larger than allowed. B? 9.Camping in an illegal area or illegal/closed campsite. B or C? D and maybe F. 10.Mining with a pick and shovel. B, C, D, F
Those arenít perfect answers, I know. But itís what I have done over the past ten years or so. And of course it all depends on the situationóif there are more of them than us, I am less likely to try to take a more active role, for obvious reasons.
All of these answers would obviously depend on the specific situation. I would be less likely to be confrontational with my son around or with someone who seems a bit off kilter. I would also be less likely to act if I don't fully understand the regulation and why it was implemented. If a regulation was implemented so that the governing body wouldn't get sued if somebody hurt themselves, then I would probably only mention the regs as an fyi.
I didn't ever choose d. I guess d seems too passive-aggressive to me particularly if that is the only action taken. I guess if situation 6 looked like it would truly lead to a wildfire, I would want to document the cause.
I don't see how f would do much good for most of these offences. Most are minor in nature (resulting in a ticket) and by the time I contacted the authorities it would have happened several days in the past and many miles away in a fairly inaccessible place. I sure would like to hear the thoughts from authorities on what they would prefer people do, how they would respond to reports, and general thoughts.
1.Building a new fire ring - c 2.Chopping up or down a tree for fire wood - c 3.Hiking with a dog where it is forbidden - a: I have a soft spot for dogs. I guess maybe I don't understand why they would be forbidden from an area where people are allowed and more so for areas where horses are allowed. 4.Fishing with bait in a fly-fishing only stream - b 5.Feeding wildlife - hmmm don't know.. probably a, maybe f if it was something like a bear. 6.Leaving a fire or coals unattended - probably c then e if that didn't work. 7.Littering - probably c then e if that didn't work. 8.Hiking in a group that is larger than allowed - a: not sure I understand the regulations well enough to definitively identify a group as breaking the regulations (could it be two groups choosing the same spot?) 9.Camping in an illegal area or illegal/closed campsite - a or b; c and/or f if the area is closed for wildlife preservations reasons. 10.Mining with a pick and shovel - f I guess.. not sure I would want to confront someone who lugged in a pick and shovel several days.
Good question. One time I actually stopped at the FS office on my way home was after discovering a hobo camp in Desolation, well off trail. It had probably been abandoned but there was gear strewn about, canned food shoved into a rock niche and who knows what else. I gave them GPS coordinates and a couple months later received a phone call at home thanking me for the info and saying they'd hauled it all out.
Another time I told the FS I was none too pleased at cattle grazing along lakes in Emigrant signed "No camping, meadow restoration." Nothing ticks me off more than somebody making money by breaking the rules. Okay, poaching probably does.
I guess we probably "busted" tha CA Air National Guard in August because we watched somebody hot-rod a C130 Hercules up through a canyon in NE Yosemite--it crossed below us. Happened to mention it to a backcountry ranger later that day and he radioed it in, none too pleased.
Suppose my response is generally be formed by the timing, and other than Yosemite I seldom see backcountry rangers or FS employees.
Other than 6 and 7 I would ignore the activity and walk away. I am not keen on telling others the rules. I think they already know them and are choosing to not follow.
I would stop and fully put out a fire - I have done that many times. And I generally pick up litter, if it is not too heavy or too much.
The mining part is a bit odd. If I saw that I might tell authorities where the activity was taking place when I got out. It is my understanding that mining claims are grandfathered. It would not be easy for me to tell if it was legal or illegal.
As for dogs- I have taken my dog where not allowed a few times.
very thoughtful topic. first I assess the people involved. I'll pass any behavior if I think my commenting will stir a violent response. I'll snap a pic and report them when my trip is over. First rule: nothing is worth sacrificing my peace or safety. Second rule: regardless of what I feel about wilderness ethics, if behavior is not illegal or violating local restrictions/rules, I'll mind my own business.
now to specifics, but again i'm generalizing my response - situations dictate different responses, and also whether my cell phone works. If I have cell reception I always pack it. In this case I can report really off behavior to rangers.
And the activities we identified;
1.Building a new fire ring - usually ignore - A. just not worth it to me. EXCEPTION: fire danger high and fires are prohibited - then I mention it to the offender and say I'd appreciate it if they comply with the restriction. 2.Chopping up or down a tree for fire wood. actually I think I might just pass by and forget it. dunno; I haven't seen that yet except on land where it's legal. A/F 3.Hiking with a dog where it is forbidden: B, then what they do with that is probably next time. F also if I think fido presents a real hazard. 4.Fishing with bait in a fly-fishing only stream. C/F. This one I see often and it really gravels my gut. 5.Feeding wildlife. A unless they are baiting game illegally, then D and F. I rarely confront poachers and illegal hunters directly. Can be very unhealthy; they know good and well what they are doing and they won't listen to me. 6.Leaving a fire or coals unattended. C and E. I will ask them to finish dousing the fire or please not leave it unattended; if they leave the fire I will not - I'll finish putting it out myself. 7.Littering - honestly most of the time will be A (shame ...), but sometimes I'm in a "had enough" mood and will go C. 8.Hiking in a group that is larger than allowed - A, D, F. I won't confront the group unless I see that the clear leader of the group is approachable, then I'll simply ask if he/she is aware of group size regulations for the area. 9.Camping in an illegal area or illegal/closed campsite - just F. 10.Mining with a pick and shovel - If approachable, B and F, but always F.
Admittedly I will try to see my way to avoid confrontation as much as possible. Gross violators may just not care to the point that it isn't worth my while ... I will take corrective action myself if the safety of the forest or wildlife is in jeopardy. Unfortunate, but we just can't "fix" all the transgressors in the world, and often we are powerless to bring them into accountability.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Personally, I don't feel it's my responsibility to inform or enforce rules and regulations, so if I see them broken I generally don't do or say a thing. I do follow them though. Around here it's not hard, and there's really no good reason too ignore them.
When I'm off trail I rarely see anyone anyway, so I don't run into much (or any) of the things listed, and unless it's really only me around I never camp where others do.
I've carried a lot of trash out that's been left behind by others. Little bits that get left behind by accident don't bother me, but piles and bags of it sure boils my blood. I've never had the chance to see it actually happen though. I used to lug it out, but I don't do that so much anymore. The bits and pieces, yeah, but bags, not so much now. I've kind of passed the baton on that one.
I will say that there are some car campsites I know of here that have had the same trash in them for years, and that does bother me. I feel we pay a lot for our NF upkeep and I can't help but think someone ought to be out there taking care of that. They can't be nannies, but they can do some clean up now and then.