Treat public land like you own it — because you do

No matter how much land you hold the deed to, you are also a co-owner of a couple million acres in this state.

How many landowners do you know who rev up their four-wheel-drives and tear through riparian areas on their land? Or just toss their garbage out in the brush when they’re riding around on the lower 40?

Or think about how you used to drive your parents’ car. I bet compared to how you handle your own vehicle, you drove your folks’ car faster, squealed the tires more and never checked the oil.

It’s easier to treat your own stuff better than someone else’s, whether it’s a car or land. But next time you go to a popular spot on a national forest or other public land, look around. You won’t have to look far before you see a Pepsi can or an empty potato chip bag, or tracks from vehicles driving where they shouldn’t be.

But why do people treat federal and state lands this way? Beyond the issue of it being both irresponsible and disrespectful to tear up the land, it’s also stupid. It’s everyone’s land. In essence, the people who wreck it are wrecking their own land. But they’re also destroying your land. Mine, too. And I don’t like that.

We need to reverse this trend. With more and more people cropping up on the planet every day, the places we can go to get away from it all become harder to find and more valuable. We can’t afford to have any of our public land ruined by careless, thoughtless individuals.

The first step we all need to take is to treat the land as though it is ours. That should be easy, because it is. Show some pride in ownership. Beyond just leaving the land as you find it, go a step further. Leave it in better condition, if you can. Pick up any trash you find and scatter the rocks from your fire ring.

And while you’re cleaning it up, speak up. Let your Congressional representatives and other elected officials know we want to keep those lands public. Don’t let them give those lands away.

Do what you can to keep our lands in good condition, and keep public lands in public hands.