Kansas City, Mo. – The morel hunter stumbles across an aluminum can on a wooded hillside. Anglers see a wad of tangled fishing line on the lake shore. Hikers enjoy sights along a pristine natural path, until, they pass by cellophane snack wrappers lying among the wildflowers. Somebody else’s trash has been left behind, dampening someone’s outdoor experience. Managers for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) public lands find removing litter an ongoing challenge.
Trash in nature is harmful to wildlife and bad karma for outdoors-loving folks. The public can lend a helping hand, though, and boost conservation in their favorite places. Make a small trash sack part of the gear and pick up a few (hopefully) items encountered when you’re outdoors.
Of course, the first rule is leave no trash behind when you visit the MDC lake or conservation area. The wilderness backpackers’ credo of “leave no trace” helps every visitor enjoy the uplift from experiencing nature unspoiled, and those feelings of walking in places untrammeled, maybe even unexplored by recent footsteps. Nature can absorb the footfalls of many boots on a trail in a day without surrendering that mood of wildness to visitors. But a crumpled can or discarded cigarette butt is an unsightly mood killer. Picking them up and disposing of them properly is a favor to the next passerby.
Not all trash is left by a negligent or discourteous user of shared public lands. Children drop things unnoticed. Strong winds can grab sandwich wrappers and Styrofoam coffee cups, flinging them out of reach. Lost fishing line may be submerged until a storm pushes it ashore. But picking up trash when you find it makes up for those times when mishaps hinder good intentions.
Wildlife gets tangled in plastic six-pack loops, fishing line, and other garbage. But there’s also an aesthetic loss for visitors who encounter trash. MDC provides trash cans at many parking lots and boat ramps. At some heavily used areas, such as the fishing lakes at the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area in Lee’s Summit, visitors will find a trash dumpster near the headquarters for their convenience of trash disposal. Dispose of your plastic lure packages and used baits and all trash properly, and if possible, pick up a bit of someone else’s now and then when you’re afield or afloat.
MDC’s fishing lakes and conservation areas are popular with people in May because fish are biting, wildflowers are blooming, and songbirds are active. But MDC requests that all public area users practice physical distancing policies recommended by health experts as a precaution against the COVID-19 virus. This is important on trails and at parking lots and boat ramps.
To find an MDC conservation area close to your home, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Z4V.