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This is a paper that I wrote for my Environmental Science class during the Fall Semester of 2004.

On September 18 2004, I took my girlfriend and her kids on an outing into the hills.  I enjoy my trips into the hills, and especially enjoy being able to educate children about the outdoors.  After enjoying a few hours of hiking and a picnic lunch, we decided to take Victoria Lake Road from Highway 385 to Sheridan Lake Road.  I have not taken this road in about twenty-five years, but I can remember taking this road in the early fall as a child.  It was always a nice quiet drive, and we would see a variety of wildlife, and the fall colors where spectacular.  This place was not the same as I remember growing up.  Many things have changed which I will convey through this writing.  These changes, caused by people, are an environmental injustice.  We need to protect our environment by learning to be considerate in the outdoors.  Consideration means concern, reflection, and selflessness. 

We parked at Victoria Lake overlook.  When taking our trips as a child, this was one of my favorite places.  As we got out of the vehicle, we could hear the blasts of people shooting their guns at one of the popular shooting areas.  We walked to the edge to enjoy the view.  There was litter everywhere.  We saw empty beverage containers, an old fire pit, home appliances, cigarette butts, and paper.  As we stood at the edge of the cliffs, a group of about six riders on all terrain vehicles, (ATV’s) sped down into the canyon, roared through the bottom, and raced out the other side.

We should be concerned about the impacts we make when we are outdoors.  I am not anti-gun, and I am not against the use of ATV’s for recreation.  I am against pollution and degradation of our environment.  Wildcat shooting is the discharge of a firearm in an undeveloped area.  Where there is wildcat shooting, there is the possibility of accidental shootings, property damage, noise pollution, lead contamination, and litter.  We had not seen any wildlife as we drove to the overlook.  I wondered why?  (Anderson J.) “Increased use of national forests including use by OHV’s has the potential to create impacts to resources. The remarkable growth rate of OHV use is of particular concern with respect to: Disrupting wildlife and damage to wildlife habitat.”  I do not remember all the litter when I was younger.  According to the Bureau of Land Management's Education Department and the National Outdoor Leadership School; “it takes paper: 2-4 weeks, a cigarette butt: 2-5 years, aluminum can: 200-400 years, and glass bottles: lots and lots of years”, for these items to degrade. 

Lets reflect on the changes I noticed most on my recent outing.  Starting with the wildcat shooting.  (NRA) “Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.”  I believe that this rule means more then be careful not to shoot anything on accident.  One consideration that should be reflected on by the shooter is the full impact of the shot.  I believe that target shooting, random plinking, and other recreational shooting should be allowed only in designated areas.  Shooting areas should be controlled for safety.  Impacts to the surrounding area should be investigated.  I believe that selected areas would eliminate much of the pollution associated with primitive shooting areas.  (McGee, J.)  “Lead, arsenic, antimony, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) from the existing target range may be affecting the physiology of plants, lichen, quail, and other wildlife.” and (McGee, J.) “The sound of gunfire may be adversely affecting wildlife by disrupting their normal behavior.”  From my viewpoint, my recreation time I tried to spend in a tranquil, natural setting is hampered by the sound of gunfire coming from this shooting area. 

The second change I noticed to this area is the use of ATV’s on renegade trails.  As we drove up the road to the overlook, we saw numerous trails from ATV’s crossing the road and going every direction through the trees.  These extra trails lead to erosion and causes damage to vegetation.  (Carbone C.) A change in the amount of activity near her home is, “Estimated a 25-30 percent increase in the number of “renegade trails.”  Educating the public on what areas are appropriate for OHV use is critical in minimizing the impact.  Like the shooting areas, there could be areas designated for renegade riders who like to rip, roar, and race.  There are many open roads that could be used by those riders who enjoy casual trail riding.

Third, and not at all the least important, is the litter.  One of my favorite outdoor sayings is, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time.”  When reflecting on the litter issue, we should remember that our actions have a great impact on the environment.  Leaving something as simple as a plastic six-pack ring on the ground could easily kill a fish, bird, or another animal.  One cigarette butt will start a fire that could burn hundreds or even thousands of acres.  Glass and aluminum take hundreds of years to degrade.

(Standing Bear L.) "But the old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon lead to a lack of respect for humans too."  When we are outdoors, no matter where we are or what we are doing, we should reflect on seeing beyond ourselves.  We need to educate ourselves and our families and our friends about the consequences of our selfish behaviors and the injustices we lay on our environment.  (Brovsky S.) “Given the imbalanced state of the environment, the time has come for a new perception of the earth, one that takes into account creatures and things other than ourselves.”  We should be concerned about the areas we visit, leaving it as a reflection of who we are, remembering that we are not the only thing that matters.

Literature Cited

Anderson J. 2003. Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Deis) For Cross-Country Travel By OHV’s. Ch.3 P.11


            NRA. 2004. Education & Training Programs: NRA Gun Safety Rules.


Carbone C. 2004. National Forest Advisory Board Meeting: Minutes, August 18, 2004.


McGee, J. 1998. Environmental Assessment: Sabino Canyon Target Range The Santa Catalina Ranger District Coronado National Forest.


Standing Bear, L. 1978. Land of the Spotted Eagle. University of Nebraska Press. Lincoln, Nebraska


            BLM. 1998. Teaching Leave No Trace: Principle #3: Pack it in, Pack it out.


Brovsky, S. 1991. I Am Sending a Voice


Harlan, B. 2004. Sensitive Bog to get Protection from ATVs. Rapid City Journal. Local News. B,1.

For coments and/or questions, please e-mail me.

Below are links to search sites that may be helpful to find more information on:

Lakota, Education, Conservation, Environment, Lee McDowell, Environmental Science, Conservation Biology, Conservation Education, Environmental Education, Respect, Outdoors, Oglala Lakota College, Lakota Values, Lakota Culture, Lakota Education, Outdoor Education, Environmental Organizations, Conservation Organizations, Outdoor Recreation, South Dakota, Black Hills, Rapid City, Pine Ridge Reservation, Lakota Sioux


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