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Editorial Roundup: Trashing the outdoors harms everyone

The loons aren’t laughing. The forest is falling tree by chopped-down tree. The open water is clogged by boat traffic and the ditches with human feces.

The cherished natural attractions of Minnesota are in distress this summer thanks to overuse and abuse by the pandemic-weary public.

Getting outdoors is a great idea. Trashing it in your wake is unacceptable.

Recent news reports detail the despicable behavior that is mounting this summer, especially in northern Minnesota. A Department of Natural Resources officer witnessed a jet ski driver chase a loon on a lake. When loons are alarmed or excited, they let out their well-known tremolo. If you’ve gotten close to a loon and its young and then hear this cry, often called a laugh, you aren’t far enough away. Loons also dive and can be struck by boaters who recklessly speed through their territory.

Some lakes have been gathering places for people who are loud and disruptive and leave trash behind when they go home. The Otter Tail County Commission is studying a surface water ordinance because of the increase in complaints by local residents in the Detroit Lakes area. Complaints this summer are about three times the normal rate, the sheriff’s has said.

In the Superior National Forest some campers wanted a better view of the lake at a public campground, so they cut down a tree. No logic can force that to make sense. Go to the forest and decide the trees are in your way, so destroy them?

Boundary Waters personnel have reported that campers, despite being given behavior guidelines, are not digging trenches to go to the bathroom and are leaving trash, which introduces bear risks to the campers who next use the site. An RV in northern Minnesota reportedly released its septic tank contents on the side of the road instead of 3 miles away at a dump station.

Although not to the scale seen in the northern tourist areas of Minnesota, locally there is plenty of evidence of people’s disregard for their surroundings and each other. Every morning park workers pick up the discarded air mattresses, charcoal briquettes, cans, bottles and chip bags of people who don’t pick up after themselves.

This total disrespect of natural surroundings and of others attempting to enjoy the outdoors is a pandemic of irresponsibility. The day-to-day life of the COVID-19 outbreak is taxing and tiring, and we all want it to be over. But abusing our unique places of escape that others also need in this trying time is despicable behavior that every Minnesotan needs to put a stop to and report to authorities.

We are lucky to live in a place rich with outdoor opportunities. Let’s all respect and protect those special places so they remain viable next summer, and the summer after that.

— The Free Press of Mankato, Aug. 2

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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