Most of the state’s outdoor enthusiasts spend at least a portion of their time afield on private land, thanks to the landowners who allow access to their acreage.
Some parcels of land are large, others small. But wherever people recreate in Maine, there is a common problem that threatens future access for all of us.
Unfortunately, some people treat the land of others like their own personal landfill, dumping garbage, appliances, tires and worse.
And when that happens, it’s understandable that landowners might be more apt to shut down access to their land.
In order to address the ongoing problem, for the last three years the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry have coordinated Landowner Appreciation Cleanup Day. This year’s cleanup day will be held on Saturday.
“It’s an effort to spur volunteers, user groups, and users of private property in Maine to help us clean illegal dumpsites in the state of Maine, with the goal of saying thank you to private landowners for allowing the use of their property for all of the different types of recreation that people do,” said regional forest ranger Jeff Currier of the Maine Forest Service.
This year, forest rangers, with cooperation from the Maine Warden Service, have identified nearly 50 sites where illegal dumping has taken place, and where cleanup teams are needed on Saturday.
Groups interested in pitching in and cleaning up can view a map of the sites, then call the local forest ranger to coordinate a plan. The site map is also available at the Maine Forest Rangers Facebook page.
“What the forest rangers do is we work with a host of other agencies, including the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, ATV and snowmobile clubs, several universities, and other outdoor groups to clean up these sites,” Currier said.
Currier explained that forest rangers are actively involved in the investigation and enforcement of litter laws in Maine, and often know where sites are located.
“[On Landowner Appreciation Cleanup Day] we help facilitate the cleaning of the sites,” Currier said. “We provide logistical support for getting rid of the garbage.”
Included in that logistical support: Finding trucks to haul the trash away, providing trash bags, and coordinating with local transfer stations, many of which accept the trash at no charge.
“We’ll point you in the direction [of the cleanup site] and tell you the location and the time we’ll be meeting,” Currier said. “We go by the old adage, ‘Many hands make light work.'”
Currier said some interested volunteers say they’d love to participate, but can’t meet on the designated cleanup day.
That’s not a problem, he said. In fact, some of the sites listed on the map have been cleaned up this week because that’s when volunteers were available.
Currier said that in past cleanup efforts, rangers have found evidence in the piles of trash that have led to convictions of the people who left the trash behind.
Maine Gov. Paul R. LePage lauded the cleanup effort in a recent press release issued by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
“Most Maine people understand that public access to private land is a special privilege to be respected and cherished, not a right,” LePage said. “I commend volunteers and landowners alike for promoting public access and awareness of the need to respect private property.”
Walt Whitcomb, the commissioner of the DACF, urged volunteers to take part in the effort.
“Department staff and our partner organizations have worked hard to make this annual effort a success,” Whitcomb said in a news release. “It is also symbolic of efforts made throughout the year by people and individuals to help ensure future access to private lands by keeping them clear of trash and debris. The goal is to avoid the posting of ‘no trespassing’ signs and the installation of gates that block access.”
And that effort seems to be paying dividends.
Currier said that while some will say they’re not noticing any difference, others, including land managers who handle huge tracts in the state, have told him a different story.
“If you ask some people, they’ll tell you the sky is falling,” Currier said. “But [two land managers] have told me they had a hard time coming up with sites [to clean up this year].”