Time to Talk Trash!
The Shawnee National Forest Trash Problem and How You Can Help!
Shawnee National Forest wasn’t easy to get! Way back in the day, the lands that Shawnee National Forest was once on was mainly farmland. However, erosion and lack of moisture created a very difficult challenge for locals to be able to keep and sustain valuable crops within their lands. While there is a lot of agriculture in the State of Illinois, the further south you get (especially south of Highway 13), the more of a challenge widespread crop lands become. When early settlers arrived, the area was heavily forested but back then, timbering everything wasn’t a choice, it was the only way to survive. If only the previous settlers would had preserved some virgin growth forest for all of us to enjoy (there is some out there but not a lot). The first attempt to make the Shawnee National Forest failed because early forests were more focused on mountainous regions and while the Shawnee Hills are tough, they are not exactly mountainous. After more attempts to establish a National Forest in Illinois, the Shawnee was finally born and it brought many jobs for many young men during a time when people needed every penny they could get – the depression.
I bring up the history of the Shawnee National Forest above because it means something to us all, especially those of us who are local and love our Shawnee National Forest. Trash is becoming a major issues in the forest. Some of the most scenic and popular areas of the Shawnee are being treated like a landfill. I see massive amounts of trash at Garden of Gods, Bell Smith Springs and Burden Falls. These three areas are so unique that you usually cannot find them anywhere else in the forest around us and yet people are trashing them to the point to where it is utterly disgusting to hike in some of the areas.
Trash can kill local vegetation, it can bring in nasty bugs and it makes the area look like a dump.
So what can we do to help out in this situation?
There are several ways in which we can help cope with the trash problems in the Shawnee National Forest…
If you see someone littering, don’t approach them, don’t say anything but try to get a visual description of what they look like. After that, once you can safely do so, REPORT THEM! The US Forestry Hotline for the Shawnee National Forest is 618-201-3364 and you can either call it or text it. The hotline is open 23/7/365 and information reported on it will go directly to Forest Service Federal Law Enforcement Officers. If more people report these trashy trashers, something will eventually be done about it. BUT WE NEED MASS REPORTS BECAUSE THAT IS HOW YOU DEMAND CHANGE!
Help pick the trash up. I hiked with a friend named Mary at Snake Road. The entire time we hiked, looking for herps, she would scan the area and look for trash. Then if she saw some, she’d go pick it up and stick it in her bag. She’d even go off the road and into the brush to get the trash – ON SNAKE ROAD!!! Now she was using caution because there obviously are snakes present there. So if you do decide to help clean up trash, do use caution and know where you are sticking your hand down into. And don’t worry if you can’t get all the trash because there are tons of people that will follow behind you and get it for you. The trash collectors of the Shawnee National Forest are my heroes! 🙂
If you have children and teenagers who often visit the forest, remind them that littering is wrong. Be firm about it and tell them that you do not allow them to litter. And youths are not the only ones that I have seen littering. I’ve seen adults do it, too. There is NO EXCUSE for leaving trash behind. If it is too much for you to carry out of the forest, don’t carry it into the forest in the first place. How would you like it if someone littered their trash in your backyard. The forest is the backyard of all of us – treat it like one!
Thanks for reading my short little blog post about the trash problem of the Shawnee National Forest. If you have enjoyed reading it, please share it on social media. Feel free to comment down below telling me your thoughts and other solutions in dealing with the trash of the Shawnee National Forest.
Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.