Do you speak up? Do you walk by?

balzaccom

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Sep 30, 2014
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452
When do you speak up?
Since many of the contributors on these forums are very experienced backpackers, I thought I’d 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?
  1. 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, it’s only fair that I provide the first set of answers:
  1. Building a new fire ring—never 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, C….maybe more. I haven’t 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 aren’t perfect answers, I know. But it’s what I have done over the past ten years or so. And of course it all depends on the situation—if there are more of them than us, I am less likely to try to take a more active role, for obvious reasons.
 

DrNed

The mountains are calling and I must go
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The only time I've been front and center with someone blatantly disregarding backcountry rules was while In Coyote Gulch this past spring and I didn't say anything because they couldn't have done anything about it had I said anything. (They had a group of 25+ instead of the required 12) I did photograph them and used it as an opportunity to teach the boys I had with me on wilderness etiquette.
 

John Goering

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Sep 30, 2014
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I don't think there's a good set answer for a lot of that. Generally, I don't think being confrontational in the backcountry is a very wise thing to do. I have bitched at a few people that left fires burning and have dismantled countless fire rings along with packing out thoughtless people's trash. To date, I've only reported two incidents to the Forest Service (over about 50 years): a dirt biker in a non-motorized area and a group of retards that left a mini forest fire (in the guise of a campfire) burning near RMNP.
 

andyjaggy

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Dec 2, 2013
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925
That's a tough one. I am non confrontational by nature, so I most likely will not confront the person directly. some of these I don't even have issues with, like dogs for example. If I saw someone with a dog up Little cottonwood I wouldn't care, since I think it's ridiculous they can't be up there anyway.

Others I may have stronger opinions on but usually can't do anything about. On Timp this summer there was a group camped near the top that I counted 7 tents, and about 28 people in. They were all camped in one area, trampling down the fragile vegetation in the upper meadow. I didn't confront them since there was nothing I could do anyway. I was going to take a picture as they all left there camp to head up to the summit but wasn't able to get my camera out in time.
 

Laura

freespirittraveler
Joined
Oct 1, 2012
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Given that I have no enforcement authority I'd be very careful on all of those, being more inclined to note what was happening and who was doing it so I could report it, the exception being an illegal fire since that could have devastating results in very little time. I'd probably just dump water on it and say "Duh, you dumb$&#s!" The only illegal activity I've come across, fortunately, is a guy with two young boys catching snakes in a preserve. When I approached him he said he just wanted to take them home to show the wife and kids, upon which I pointed out that his kids were right there. Then a ranger came around the corner. His kids got a great lesson on what an idiot their dad was from the proper authority.
 

Tye Dye Twins

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Sep 30, 2014
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I personally choose to educate them 1st. Only a few times the offenders have gotten really disrespectful after I have confronted them, and that's when I choose to call them in.
 

Howells Outdoors

Adventure is my middle name...actually it's Keith.
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Sep 26, 2012
Messages
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Generally I'm a B then an E when I see something happening in the outdoors (backcountry or frontcountry). I don't think people, in general, are trying to destroy the land. A bit of education goes along ways. Now when that person turns confrontational then I step into D followed promptly by F.
That's my two sense -- help educate.
 

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
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As someone who works on the authority end of this thread, I always encourage people that if they find someone violating regulations, and that finder is comfortable enough to not only talk to the group but handle it respectfully, then they can "self police" as much as they want. In general recreationists respond better to other recreaters better than the land managers, so it can actually benefit everyone if you can affect someone's views on why they can't do something. Plus, issues are far better to hash out during as opposed to after the fact. I love it when people can tell me about someone out there right now, that I can contact feasibly. Coming and complaining in the office a day later generally just results in a cleanup mission as opposed to education/enforcement.

Just remember, most people (admittedly not all), are not out to wreck the woods, desert, mountains, etc. They are out there to have a good time. They need to be treated with respect and understanding, no matter how @#%^&$ you think they are. Most don't understand the why that lies behind the regs. Education is less about saying they can't do something and more about convincing them that their "good time" does not need their illegal activity. The good of the resource is a plus!
 

NateGeesaman

Donkey
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Jan 20, 2012
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There have only been a handful of instances where I have seen back country regulations broken. After 4 days of not seeing a soul in Steven's Canyon, we were on our way out of the drainage at "the crack" when we saw, to our astonished eyes, a massive group of 40+ boyscouts headed to the same pristine canyon we had just exited. Thinking of the damage they would do to the area was a real sour note to leave the canyon on, still didn't report them though.

I did report when I saw fresh horse shit in Halls Creek Narrows, where horses are not allowed. That area seems to me a super sensitive micro climate and the affect the horses had on the pools hikers are forced to negotiate was noticeable and foul. I also saw the horse group had gathered wood and made a fire pit in the narrows and I reported that as well.

I also have packed out a lot of other peoples' litter.

I would have to say as much as all those offenses mentioned above might bother me, I would probably not report any of them.

Keith's sentiment of helping educate is probably the most helpful attitude I can think of and would be better than bringing "The Man" in on any issues.

"There is no problem that the police cannot make worse" -E. Abbey
 

uintahiker

Adventure Guru
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Jan 20, 2012
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I kinda really hate seeing #3. Dogs are great, but dogs in the wrong place are not great. Probably one of the reasons I'll never have a dog- there's places I can go and flexibility to go that you just don't have when you get one, and it's just not right to leave the dog in the car at the trailhead.
 

steve

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Dec 11, 2013
Messages
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for those interested in learning how to hold these difficult conversations, I have two resources to recommend:

Attend a liveTreadLightly! presentation (even the online awareness course is a good start).

Read the book "crucial confrontations". It doesn't deal with nature per se, but it gives some great tips for holding these conversations in non-threatening manner.
 

JulieKT

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Sep 7, 2014
Messages
142
I'll say something if the people seem receptive. I have photographed evidence of people abusing the rules. Last year I came across a bunch of tents planted where they weren't supposed to be, so I took pics (no people were there at the time) plus I also took pics of the lone vehicle license plate and gave all the info the to LEs. I was with clients, so it also was an indirect teaching moment for them. In general, I'd probably only directly step in if I felt personally safe in the situation, and if the rule-breakers seemed open to feedback. I'll certainly report what I can and leave any potential follow-up to the authorities. Sometimes it can be hard to gauge how someone will respond/react to being told they are not doing the right thing.

I did report when I saw fresh horse shit in Halls Creek Narrows, where horses are not allowed. That area seems to me a super sensitive micro climate and the affect the horses had on the pools hikers are forced to negotiate was noticeable and foul. I also saw the horse group had gathered wood and made a fire pit in the narrows and I reported that as well.
Curious when that was, if you don't mind sharing?
 

JulieKT

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Sep 7, 2014
Messages
142
That's what I thought. I know exactly who that was (although technically there were two parties involved). It is so awesome you reported it. I can assure you some official checking/smack-down did occur in that case. It even led to an additional park rule-breaking discovery, which I believe was also dealt with. :)


I think it's extremely helpful for the public to help out in situations like these (by either talking to the people doing the inappropriate activities, or by reporting the activities, or both), because land management agencies cannot possibly have their people everywhere all the time making sure rules are followed.
 

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