Saturday, Sept. 24 was a beautiful fall day in Greenbrier County. It was also the opening day of archery season. But a small group of West Virginia hunters gave up the season opener to celebrate “National Public Lands Day” by hauling trash out of the woods.
“Pretty much all my hunting, fishing, and outdoor activities are on public lands, so I appreciate the chance to give back,” said Matt Kearns, who serves on the board of the West Virginia chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “Our organization has a good relationship with the Monongahela National Forest. We’ve done other public land cleanups on Glady Fork and Tea Creek. So when the Forest Service told me about an illegal dump in the Big Draft Wilderness, we decided to clean that up for our Public Lands Day “pack out” event.”
Kearns was joined by fellow Backcountry Hunters and Anglers member Russ Cronquist and the Recreation Manager for the southern half of the Monongahela National Forest, Matthew Edwards. Edwards scouted and marked three problematic dump sites. Cronquist, a local farmer, showed up with a truck, flatbed trailer, and all the rigging needed to haul heavy trash up steep slopes. Working together, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Forest Service pulled plywood, shingles, pallets, an easy chair, a grill, four 100lb propane tanks, a dozen tires, and hundreds of cups and cans out of illegal dump sites in Big Draft Wilderness.
“I got poison ivy and three bee stings for my trouble. But it feels good to get that stuff out of there. The trash was in a drainage ditch, so you know it’s getting into the water,” said Kearns. “After the clean-up I went fishing for about an hour and caught a tiny smallmouth in Anthony Creek. I’m a pretty bad fisherman, so maybe it was some good karma for cleaning up the habitat a little bit.”
Kearns, Cronquist, and an off-duty Edwards gathered later in the evening for beer and BBQ at Road Hogs and Big Draft Brewing. They swapped hunting and fishing stories – Kearns’ smallmouth got a little bit bigger – and photos of their hard work.
Not a bad way to spend a beautiful fall day.
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers works for access, conservation, and wildlife on all of West Virginia’s 1.7 million acres of public land and waters. You can learn more at www.backcountryhunters.org/west_virginia.