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Vandalism costs us all

The recent temperatures sure make it feel like we kind of skipped spring and dove right into summer around these parts. I really enjoy watching people and families get out and enjoy all the outdoor opportunities we are blessed to have in North Idaho. Most people are really good stewards of the natural resources and leave the place better than they found it.

Unfortunately, good weather also brings out mischievous activity as well.  Over the last few years the amount of damage and litter on public lands has increased. It appears there is an overall lack of respect for anything that does not directly belong to people. I know most of these folks are of high school age or around that age and I understand that kids do goofy things and the decision process of the brain doesn’t always have the elevator going all the way up.  I get it, I was a kid too. But, the level of destruction is over the top.

In the past few weeks we have had signs and toilets shot up on our Sportsmen’s Access sites. We have gates shot, buildings and equipment shot, live trees cut down and large amounts of litter left behind. We have people using the woods as a shooting gallery with the new rage of shooting down live sapling trees. It’s a blatant disrespect for public property and complete lack of understanding of who pays for the up keep of that area.

I look at the bullet holes in our sign at Johnson Creek Sportsmen Access and I’m dumbfounded. Who has the money to waste on bullets for activity like that, especially with the price of ammo these days? Parents, are you letting your kids have access to their or your guns unsupervised? If you are allowing your kids to just go out and “target practice” without an adult to guide their behavior then you are asking for trouble. As parents, do you know what your kids are doing at all times?Are you holding them accountable for their actions?

The obvious impact of this activity is damage to the natural resource and loss of revenue given the dollars spent to repair these areas. The money used to fix the signs and toilets is coming out of a budget used to expand public access to waterways and public land. Folks in the community should be outraged when this kind of damage occurs because it costs all of us money and future opportunity.  The hidden repercussion of this kind of activity is loss of opportunity for all the good folks out there. Not only does it financially prohibit future sites but it will limit opportunity on present sites. We are contemplating shutting down Johnson Creek access to camping and other activities outside of launching a boat if this destructive behavior continues. 

As many of you know, Avista Corporation owns some land around the Clark Fork River on which they allow public access for recreation purposes.  Their land managers are frustrated as well with the destructive activity on their land and have made some major changes to their policies. One that will affect us all will be the camping closure on Antelope Lake. You heard me right, camping is now prohibited on Antelope Lake and I unfortunately had to ruin some families’ Memorial Day camping trip and made them pack up and move out.  This closure is a direct result of behavior that is destructive and disrespectful to not only the land but to the owners of the land. Avista’s land is not public, it’s private land they open up to the public for recreational enjoyment and some of us in society can’t handle that simple responsibility? Unfortunately, laws, rules and closures are all geared to the lowest common denominator in society and the good folks get punished.

The answer is community policing; we as a community need to be the eyes and ears and make sure bad folks aren’t ruining the good things in life. With school getting out for the summer, let’s remind our kids to respect our special places as they head for the outdoors.  Let’s keep an extra eye out for special places so the right people are punished for destructive behavior and the good folks don’t lose opportunity. 

If you see something that is not right, please call 911, your local game warden, or our Citizen’s Against Poaching Hotline at 800-632-5999.  

If anybody has any information on the latest damage done to Johnson Creek Sportsmen Access site please call the above number. There is a cash reward for any information leading to the arrest of these people and as always you can remain anonymous. 

Leave No Child Inside . . .and teach them to leave it better than they found it.

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Author info

Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

Tagged as:

Clark Fork, The Game Trail, vandalism, Antelope Lake, Johnson Creek

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