‘Clean up after yerself’; Desert RATS picks up shooting debris, burn piles on Arizona Strip

Desert RATS and off-road enthusiasts clean up shooting debris and burn piles from an area south of St. George on the Arizona Strip, Arizona, April 30, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

ARIZONA STRIP – In spite of rainy weather, a group of off-road enthusiasts spent Saturday morning cleaning up trash on the Arizona Strip. Volunteers filled a 30-yard dumpster with trash and shooting debris from just a few areas on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management close to the Utah-Arizona border.

Desert RATS and off-road enthusiasts clean up shooting debris and burn piles from an area south of St. George on the Arizona Strip, Arizona, April 30, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News
Desert RATS and off-road enthusiasts clean up shooting debris and burn piles from an area south of St. George on the Arizona Strip, Arizona, April 30, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

One of the first things volunteers saw at the cleanup site was a handmade cardboard sign that read: “Being a slob gets areas closed – clean up after yerself!!” And the sign had been shot.

The remains of refrigerators, televisions, cardboard targets, shell casings and thousands of nails left over from burning pallets were among the debris picked up by volunteers. Several burn piles were cleaned up, along with numerous items left behind by recreational shooters.

The cleanup took place about 3.5 miles south of the Arizona border near the intersection of River Road and Highway 7.

The project was organized by the local off-road group Desert Roads and Trails Society — or Desert RATS — in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management and with the support of the St. George Jeepers, the Utah Public Lands Alliance and Dixie 4 Wheel Drive.

Desert RATS and off-road enthusiasts clean up shooting debris and burn piles from an area south of St. George on the Arizona Strip, Arizona, April 30, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News
Desert RATS and off-road enthusiasts clean up shooting debris and burn piles from an area south of St. George on the Arizona Strip, Arizona, April 30, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

“We do this to help preserve our lands, keep our public lands public so we can continue to use it,” Desert RATS president Jeff Bieber said. “I think if we had more people that would help clean up, we would lose less land.”

The cleanup focused on areas popular with recreational shooters as well as bonfire sites where pallets were apparently the main source of fuel. Burning pallets leave nails and wire behind; volunteers spent several hours cleaning the debris with rakes, shovels, garbage bags and buckets.

“We’d like to see more people come out here with their kids and their guns and enjoy shooting,” Utah Public Lands Alliance president Gil Meacham said, “and take home everything that they brought out.”

Trash tends to attract more trash, BLM Law Enforcement Ranger Curtis Racker said in an earlier interview, and illegal dumping is a big problem in Washington County as well as areas on the Arizona Strip close to St. George.

Desert RATS and off-road enthusiasts clean up shooting debris and burn piles from an area south of St. George on the Arizona Strip, Arizona, April 30, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News
Desert RATS and off-road enthusiasts clean up shooting debris and burn piles from an area south of St. George on the Arizona Strip, Arizona, April 30, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

Shooting areas are particularly problematic, Racker said. Target shooters often leave their cardboard targets, thinking they’re doing the next person to come shoot a favor. However, the targets get rained on and turn into trash.

More trash accumulates, and soon there are televisions, washing machines and refrigerators being dumped for shooting targets. This type of garbage is not just unsightly, it is also hazardous, Racker said.

Televisions and other electronics contain several heavy metals, including lead and arsenic. One or two shot-up televisions can be cleaned up by the BLM or volunteers, but more than that can get into the soil and become a hazardous material site requiring an extremely costly and time-consuming cleanup.

Desert RATS and off-road enthusiasts clean up shooting debris and burn piles from an area south of St. George on the Arizona Strip, Arizona, April 30, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News
Desert RATS and off-road enthusiasts clean up shooting debris and burn piles from an area south of St. George on the Arizona Strip, Arizona, April 30, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

“It’s a threat to our public lands (use) as far as being closed down because of improper use,” Racker said.

The Desert RATS is a family-friendly club with no membership fees, dedicated to promoting and protecting responsible use of public lands. The group has committed to holding cleanup projects at least four times a year in addition to the annual Sand Mountain cleanup for National Public Lands Day.

“The Desert RATS do these cleanups to promote good relations with BLM, to improve the aesthetics and to improve our chances of keeping the area open for everybody — able-bodied and disabled — to enjoy,” Bud Sanders, Desert RATS vice-president and event organizer, said.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • Proud Rebel May 2, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Sadly, the slobs that leave their trash out there, will never be motivated enough to clean up after themselves. Then, should the area become closed, they are the ones that will complain the loudest.
    Kudos to The Desert RATS!

  • Law24 May 2, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    I wish I had known about this. I would have been more then happy to go out and help. Whenever I go out shooting, I take a few extra garbage bags and make sure to fill those with any trash I find before I leave. If all the shooters did this, these cleaning projects wouldn’t have to be done nearly as often, nor would they take as long.

  • Ladyk May 3, 2016 at 12:31 am

    Never thought I would be grateful for some rats! Thanks guys & gals for your hard and selfless work.

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