The end of dispersed camping?

An increasing number of campers are trashing dispersed camping sites around the country
Dispersed camping in the Cocoino National Forest
Dispersed camping in the Cocoino National Forest (photo: USFS).

I love to camp. I love to camp almost as much as I love to fish. Being outside, far from city lights and city traffic, is soul-building. Dropping the jacks on my little camper overlooking a stretch of fishy water and spending a week away from computer screens, cell phone signals and the damn lawn mower is how I recharge.

And I don’t do campgrounds. Where I live, I’m fortunate — there are dozens upon dozens of public-land campgrounds on the national forests and BLM lands near my home. And a lot of folks use those campgrounds, which is a really good thing. But, if I have a choice, I almost always choose to go the “dispersed” route — a wide spot off a Forest Service road, or a hidden grotto connected to the road via a subtle two-track trail … that’s where I camp. It’s private. It’s rustic. It’s a great way to find solitude and, truth be told, better fishing.

In all honesty, I like to go where people aren’t.

But dispersed camping is becoming more and more popular. With that popularity, of course, comes the refuse that often remains after humans leave the woods — garbage, damage to the land and even piles of excrement. In Arizona’s iconic Oak Creek Canyon on the Coconino National Forest near Sedona, “campers” have trashed dispersed camping sites, carving their initials into tree trunks and crafting graffiti on rocks. On parts of the nearby Prescott National Forest, camping was banned for two years starting last summer after officials could no longer keep up with the trash and damage inflicted on public lands by dispersed campers.

Of course, the damage isn’t restricted to Arizona — public lands open to dispersed camping all over the West are being degraded as I write this. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has people searching for recreation away from crowds, and they’re finding things to do — good, wholesome outdoor activities — on lands that belong to all Americans. Unfortunately, they aren’t doing it right. And, as the saying goes, a few bad apples can spoil the entire barrel.

In time, if this misuse continues, forest managers will have no choice but to ban dispersed camping, close spur roads and restrict access to the public lands that give the West much of its appeal. Certainly, the pandemic can be blamed for an influx of inexperienced campers in need of some simple education when it comes to camping etiquette, but, honestly, the damage to public lands is nothing new.

For years, I’ve protected a couple of a “secret spots,” choosing to share them with a select few folks (mostly folks who don’t fish, mind you), under the assumption that special places are only special because they’re still largely intact and it’s easy to escape the crowds that might be gathered at the official campgrounds. When I visited one of my favorite locations a couple weeks ago, I discovered that what was once the “end of the road” was no longer. Instead, enthusiastic ORV riders had pioneered a circular “track” that bordered my once-sublime campsite — now, dirt bikers and ATV riders churn up dust and make camping on the bluff overlooking one my favorite public lands streams a lot less enjoyable. To make matters worse, presumably the same ORV folks have decided the short walk to stream isn’t short enough — they’ve created a completely new two-track trail across the meadow below my favorite campsite that goes directly to a popular swimming hole.

Just this past week, I ventured north, deep into the woods of Idaho’s panhandle, in search of west slope cutthroat trout and bull trout. I hauled my camper north through Montana, climbed a sketchy pass and dropped down into the headwaters of the St. Joe River. It’s stunningly beautiful country replete with tall firs and cedars that have come back in dense groves after the Great Burn in the early 1900s. The river itself is a sight to behold — cold, clear water cruising over scoured river rocks and through deep, green pools where trout eagerly await flies.

I was easily 100 miles from any notable population center, and I figured I would have my pick of any number of dispersed camping sites along the upper river. But when I arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, I realized that times are different. Every wide spot in the road was occupied, and I eventually settled for an out-of-the-way spot in a stock camp.

I’m not bemoaning the use of our public lands — it’s actually heartening to see people taking advantage of this uniquely American birthright. But as I drove out on Saturday morning, I was taken aback by the leavings of a few “campers” who decided that packing out what they packed in just wasn’t something they wanted to do. In the middle of the week, I was visited by a Panhandle National Forest employee who asked me if I knew anything about a stock picket being sawed down in a nearby campsite — I hadn’t noticed the damage until she pointed it out to me, but this bit of vandalism took some effort, a chainsaw and a general disregard for the next folks to come camping who might like to tie their horses up overnight.

This is the kind of behavior that will reduce our dispersed camping opportunities. If folks can’t be bothered to clean up after themselves and refrain from scrawling their initials in aspen trees, spray-painting a rock face, driving their ATVs across an untracked meadow or constructing some silly cairn made from displaced river rocks, they likely shouldn’t be camping in the first place. More damage will lead to more closures by land-management agencies, and rightly so.

I get that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, and we’re seeing both the best and worst of humanity as our country deals with its most concerning cultural crisis since the 1960s. I also understand that “getting away from it all” is important for our emotional well-being — this is something I’ve grasped for decades. But if we can’t do it right, and keep our public lands clean and ready for the next folks who are trying to accomplish some responsible recreation during the time of COVID-19, perhaps we shouldn’t be doing it at all.

And if we’re not careful, those charged with managing our public lands will be forced to make some tough choices for us when it comes to dispersed camping. Let’s get our acts together and take care of the places we all love. The damage we inflict today cuts into our opportunities tomorrow.


Aren't you missing ah "peaceful riot" somewhere?

Doesnt sound like a bitch session to me. It sounds more like someone who is very passionate about the outdoors and keeping it pristine

This is not about being of the elite, in fact I don't have much so to pack up the '88 station wagon, hook up the 40 year old fishing boat and head north with my boys and the dog for a few days of peace and quite with them is great but I was taught if you can burn it burn it if you can't, put it in the trash bag. If it is on the ground and doesn't belong there pick it up and leave better then when you got there. I have been very disappointed in who my neighbors have been the last several years, the loony of the loony, Subaru driving, granola eating, kid hating slobs I have ever seen leave more of a mess. I was responsible, and picked up there trash on my way out. I have become a believer in if it belongs to everyone it belongs to no one. I am ready to ask the forest service to put in a pay box so at least you have some accountability for it. I don't think I shouldn't pay to camp but I have a big family and a dog so staying in a motel or a park becomes prohibitive.

Eventually people like the commenter Bill Bill (nice real name, coward) will turn vigilantes out of peaceful Subaru drivers. Hey, @$$hat, your "elitist" statement has the same immature contempt that 6th graders feel for teachers who rightfully tell them not to misbehave and disturb class for other students. You might as well have a backwards hat that says, "What, me worry?" You're selfish, you're ignorant, and I meet you in the woods, you're the only garbage that gets left behind. Does kicking your selfish fucking ass sound elitist to you, bitch?

Sounds like a idiot that thinks that ORV trails going off road creates fire breaks. Let's not forget about the dumb asses that take their old Tvs and computers out to the forest and shoot them up then leave what remains. Don't get me wrong I am a hunter, fisher, target shooter but I clean up after myself and when out riding my horse it sickens me to someone else's trash and ORV tracks scattered throughout the forest.

Aw, worried that someone's going to catch you leaving garbage or tearing up the land with your ATV?

Sadly, it may have to come down to camping becoming a self-policing endeavor, with offenders being reported by the more responsible among us. With everyone having a cell phone these days, photographic evidence (including license plate numbers) shared with authorities is easy enough. If you see something, say something. I wouldn't recommend confronting offenders, because you never know about folks. But it's land that belongs to all of us, so it's up to all of us to protect it.

I agree that it would be nice for some kind of accountability. Mail ppl tickets if they have left a camp area trashed. More effective would be packing up the trash and delivering it to their yard, or onto their vehicle if they don’t have a yard. I know realistically that’s not going to happen, but I can daydream about a “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” justice for the trashers. :-)

I completely agree with you here, thank you for this article, I hope it will reach the masses.

While I appreciate your article about the vandalism. It's your description of the places you go that are helping cause all of this. Use to, people would go on vacation trips and come back and tell they're friends and relatives about they're trip and that's as far as that info would go. Now they're all going on Youtube and telling the world where all these great places are. So now those places are filling up. Good luck on getting a scenic picture without an RV or a tent in the pic. in the future.

I think we're talking about two separate things. Dispersed camping isn't, in and of itself, the problem you're referencing. Rather, you're talking about social media promotion of the activity that features recognizable landmarks, hashtags with names in them and labeled photos that disclose "secret" locations. And we're agreed ... I'm much more reserved about sharing spots anymore, especially when I find them trashed on my next visit.

good point, however, are these "public lands" not for everyone, or just the people you feel important enough to visit them. I don't really enjoy camping with neighbors so close you can smell their farts, but these days with so many people forced to stay away from jobs, school, and crowded public places, camping is the next best option. Don't worry though, and mark my words, as covid and the election pass, so will the crowds in the woods. In the mean time, keep bringing the extra garbage bags as i do and be the good person you are.

You completely missed the point. It's not about WHO goes to places, it's about HOW they behave once they're there and WHAT they leave behind.

I experienced the same when I went camping in the Big Horns in Wyoming last month. I too much prefer dispersed camping, but had a difficult time finding a spot that was unused, somewhat picked up, and not over run by loud groups of people driving ATVs. In fact there was even a wedding dance occurring late into the night during a pandemic! In my many years of dispersed camping I had never witnessed this. The amount of food, trash, and human waste I encountered was unbelievable. I live in a big city and I want to get away from people for just one week out of the year and this last trip did not give me that experience that I love so much. Very disappointing.

My wife and I were in the Big Horns last month. We have a camper. It wasn’t too bad finding a spot To set up but did notice a few campers set up with no one around. For five days, no one showed up to use them near us. I thought perhaps they were coming for the next weekend to relax, or With hunting season near, a place of shelter while hunting near by. Then, a black Ford truck pulled up with an ATV. A sign on the ATV says - United States Forest Service.
Got talking with the guy who had a large book and his job was writing down the trailer license plate number of all the campers and also the road they were on, and the date of writing down this information. Over 14 days, the trailer owners get a letter from the Forest Service. Any ways, i asked Steve why there wasn’t any one using the trailers. He said that almost all of them have no other place to put them and don’t want to pay rent! I would have never guessed.
People abuse the 14 day limit, so sad. Big pile of clutter on wheels! I also see trash left around, not only in the forests but everywhere. Take a look in the ditch lines!
I believe too that soon, dispersed camping will be by lottery and stronger regulations.

Your article is necessary but it saddened me. I share your love of camping in remote places and also fishing. Growing up as a girl scout we would head out any 3 day weekend canoeing down some river, camping where we could find a sandbar. Now as an old women with a 20 acre farm...I am joining hundreds of farmers who offer our land to private camping. I just partnered with a company called Tentrr who provides platform tents and other facilities and handles the bookings. It is not as rustic of course...but we do offer seclusion..and a private spot on our fishing pond. But we do have rules...lots of rules about cleaning up and respecting the land. Perhaps there needs to be a public manual on how to camp in remote areas of public lands...what to do and not do. Thank you for your article. In this age where seclusion is a more valuable commodity...we need to respect where we land. The places where we spend our time, make our memories...should be treated as sacred.

it may be as simple as having to pay a fee for yearly use and signing a promise to use properly form that outlines expectations. You would have to display a dispersed camping sticker to use and these areas can be monitored. Snap a photo of a plate and camper and turn it in via email or social media.. Now likely many thick people will disregard rules and demonstrate a lack of courtesy, heavy fines and suspension of camping privileges may slow that down. Also, how about posting online people misusing our lands via a special website or subreddit to shame them or provide rangers a place to look for vandals. Many idiots will post thier own lunacy and out themselves. Third, how about emailing the local BLM, or Rangers in the area and include photos of abusers and thier achievements. Its up to us to guard our heritage and champion this precious resource. Its a privilege to use not a right.

Agreed. This spring and summer has put finding solitude for camping/fishing spots, and/or going back to what were once ‘nobody there’ locations, to the test. It’s understandable that cooped up citizens want to find these gems as much as the next person, but the blatant disregard for common courtesy, cleanliness, and overall respect for the outdoors can be attributed to far more than just inexperience..... it’s just plain selfishness and a lack of caring. So many people seem to care about their own enjoyment and nothing for that of others. This is exactly what will cause locations to be closed, and for the sake of saving them from being permanently ruined or disfigured I hope some of this happens for awhile in some areas. It’s a small price to pay now to get rid of fools from locations they clearly don’t deserve to experience.

Well said! It's so frustrating when campsites are trashed and disrespected

Excellent points in all aspects. Even in Wyoming this year in the Big Horns spots to camp were harder to find, but when I did get into a nice spot my first chore was to walk around and clean up.. A normal routine for me through the years as a clean camp was a requirement spending a lot of time in the forest with my parents. Good camping habits ARE learned and just need to be shared. Or lands to camp and enjoy being out there depend on responsible practices.

It's a really simple concept I learned as a kid when packing up your camping spot...leave nature just as you found it.

Full time RVer and avid flyfisherman. I share your frustrations. Growing up in Louisiana near the Kisatchie NF people literally go dump a truck load of garbage out in the woods. During squirrel season the roads are trapped with screws so that you get a flat. We spent the majority of our summer in southern Colorado and dealt with inconsiderate neighbors day in and day out. Having fires 6 ft high and laughing about it. Groups of folks from Oklahoma intentionally parking right on top of is so that we'd leave and then laugh as we pull out. Countless times my children and I went and picked up everyones trash. More than once they had to dodge piles of human feces that was dumped along the river side as they followed us upstream. Tourist forced a huge bull moose to cross the river because they got within 5ft of him and he headed right towards us, totally disregarding our life and the danger of a moose. The ATVers are absolutely atrocious. I confronted a young set of boys who were driving on the native grass and attempting to jump their quad over hills, I saw they were from Texas and recited the rules and regulations. They told me the dirt will be just fine. Condescending me. I told them to take that shit back to Texas and never come back. Not to stereotype, but we've noticed it's your typical rednecks causing a ruckus and disrespecting OUR public lands. It's disheartening especially as full timers who make such an effort not to impose on any other campers and are extremely considerate about not stepping on anyone's toes. It's common courtesy and common sense which is a lost art in this country.

Thank you. This message needs to go out more often. Stop treating the world like a garbage can.

Unfortunately your commentary in Hatch preaches to the wrong crowd, those folks with excess idle time that have sought out “recreational activities” on federal lands due to impacts of Covid-19. I regularly horseback ride a set of trails in the Columbine Ranger District of CO and have encountered an overwhelming influx of out of state extended stay squatters that lack a total disregard of their impact. I would welcome enhanced educational outreach efforts and curtailments to dispersed camping opportunities, but this is unlikely to occur given the lack of funding of federal agencies of federal lands. I guess “it is what it is” until our current status changes.

Thanks for spreading the word about our unique birthright of every American to camp almost anywhere in our national forest. We need to do all we can to to preserve this privelige from those that would turn these public owned lands over to states and developers. The pressured to do so will be increasing as our population grows and with it demands to expand cities, agriculture and other developments. For those of us enjoying this privelige cleaning up after ourselves requires only a few moments and is little to expect. I would like to offer as one solution is forming volunteer cleanup camp trips to some of the sites in most need to get those areas back in shape which along with notices left may get folks on the right track.

Dave Moshel

This article is absolutely true. My wife and I have noticed the increase in campers in National Forest , BLM land, Campgrounds etc. We have seen the trash left behind , and have picked a lot of it up.
My wife and I are Full Time RVers , and in between work-camping jobs we boondock ( dry camp ) in national forest or BLM land. This year has been terrible for work-camping. A lot of people went out and purchased new RV's and never took the time to learn any camping etiquette. They act like they are the only people there and that no one else matters. They have been extremely loud ( even after quiet hours ) , they either don't bother reading the campground rules , or they just ignore them ( you know, because those rules were written for someone else ), they leave trash in fire pits , they go to bed with their fire still burning outside , they walk their dogs around the roads of the campground and don't pick up the dogs waste , they take off for the day and lock their dogs in their RV's allowing them to constantly bark all day while they're gone, they're rude to the work-campers and even have threatened work-campers when a work camper reminds them of the campground rules.
We have talked to friends who work-camp and they are experiencing the same problems throughout the U.S.
And then on top of all that you have homeless people moving into national forest and BLM lands who trash the place badly , and who cause troubles for people who are just trying to enjoy the outdoors.
ATV's , UTV's , Dirt Bikes etc have also ruined camping. Instead of people getting on their ATV's and going for a ride somewhere , they constantly ride ( and allow their kids to ride )up and down the road in front of your campsite kicking up dust and taking away your peace all day long ever day.
Camping used to be fun , relaxing and a positive experience , but that's not so anymore.


Couldn't agree more. It isn't surprising to see this from people that haven't been in the woods their whole life. Everyone should know better, but those of us raised outside have a deeper respect for the land. Increased usage has its own effects on the land, but that is the way it is when more people get out. Vandalism and littering are absolutely unacceptable.

Thank you for your article. Money talks. I believe that notices of stricter fines and greater enforcement may be one way to stop some of the abuse. It is a shame to penalize everyone because of the careless. Our taxpayer dollars maintain our public lands, including National Parks. Include the National Park entry fees as part of preserving all public lands. Right now, US citizens pay the same admission cost to enter our National Parks as foreign visitors pay. Why not charge foreign visitors more? Additional revenue from foreign visitors may help pay for additional staff to enforce irresponsible public land abuse. If anyone in the vehicle entering a National Park has a US ID, that car has the US rate. If no one has a valid US ID, that car pays the higher "Out of US rate" Another idea, require everyone to purchase a permit as a registered camper with large fines if enforcement finds a camper that doesn't have one. Fear of high fines and getting caught might go a long way. Happy camping.

Ban ORV OHV and walk up the freaking trail. Leave no trace and pick up trash. We were taught and have taught to leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. Respect nature. Pretty simple but maybe not common sense for some newbies.

Very true article, we too have seen this destruction. I often wonder when we go to disperse camp, IF we’ll be able to due to the irresponsible people who trash the beauty I feel privileged to be a part of. Big question is: how do we educate these people on respecting this beautiful land? Possibly social media? Everyone seems to be a part of one or the other. Thank you for writing such a true and needed article.

I agree, people are trashing, cluttering, and crowding my beloved back country. I disagree on one point...I'm not happy to see new people out there. Stay home. We need fewer people camping, not more. And I hate HATE atv,orv,sxs riders/drivers. Get the hell out of the back country and go vape somewhere else. I hate that more people are out there. These people have no business out there, none whatsoever. And if you have an RV that's more than a glorified tent, you can stay home to, you completely miss the point. If you need that much fancy home, then stay home.

So glad that my husband shared this article with me. We thought that we were the only ones who have noticed the complete disregard for our national forests and open spaces. We have been camping for over 20 years and raised our daughters to respect and not litter from the time they were toddlers. It's quite simple - we are all caretakers of our national forests and we should always pack out what we bring in. This demonstration will always be a representation of our own individual self respect.

Chris, While it is important to point out a serious problem that can impact all of us who enjoy bpublic lands, adding some balance to your article would be helpful. I would say the same to all those who commented. What I mean is to offer ways to combat this problem.....not just endless examples you all givve. Endless moaning nevver solvved anything. I havve livvved in a motorhome for the past 17 years, much of it on public lands. I have witnessed a few messes. And cleaned up a few.

So, what can be done.
1.Lobby the Forest Servvice. Is it not their job to MANAGE the forest? Which does not mean the only solution is to do a blanket closure. How about more patrols, citations. And since they drivve around in trucks, offer some low cost removal of small trash bags??
2. The USFS does use VVOLUNTEERS for cleanup and other tasks. Think about applying. And then, sinvce you lovve to write, pass on your experiences to others...inspire them.
3. Havve the USFS rangers phone number handy and report problems BEFORE they decamp and leave a mess.

Daniel... I agree with your perspective, in principle. But "lobbying" the Forest Service or the BLM only goes so far. Federal land management agencies are woefully underfunded.

What's more, because resources are spread so thin, the agencies have unfairly earned poor reputations, face backlash for poorly maintained facilities/landscapes and get blamed for the garbage/damage left behind by bad actors. It's one thing to demand more enforcement and more signage, education, fees and penalties, but the agencies aren't funded to handle it. For instance, the USFS budget is almost identical today as it was in the mid-1970s, and the maintenance backlog alone is a greater than the budget.

So lobby, yes, but don't lobby the USFS or the BLM. Lobby your congressional delegation, or the executive branch that operates agencies based on priorities that are often at odds with land users like you and me. I pasted an article from a while back above that describes the state of affairs regarding agency budgets. That's the root of the problem... Enforcement, education, signage, fee enforcement, penalty/citation delivery... It all stems from a simple lack of resources thanks to a Congress that chronically underfunds these agencies ... And then has the stones to bitch about agency performance.

My advice? Call your delegation and let them know how important your public lands are to you, and how funding them appropriately is one of the issues you will consider when cast or mail in your ballot in a couple of months.

Nothing new without the Park Service's state and national parks and rec areas would look like trash dumps from years of happy campers leaving their footprint. The only solution is putting large areas off limits to all vehicles allowing only foot traffic.

At this point I'm considering buying 40 acres in the middle of nowhere just to leave it mostly unchanged and give me somewhere to camp at that doesn't have morons making a ruckus and leaving trash around.

Just put in a small cinder block structure with a toilet, sink and shower and a little bit of storage and I'm happy.

My husband and I also love dispersed camping and it is so true what u have written. We always clean up before we set up and always leave it better than we found it. I will admit if I find a cool rock I do leave a note on it basically pay it forward to the next camper and yes we had a swimming hole that we did do rock carnes it looked really kool but now I feel guilty. We are in Washington now but did come across a few closed sites. Maybe when campers are getting away to forget things they forget their manners as well. Pack it in Pack it out. Thank you Chris for writing this article I hope alot of new and old campers read this. It's a beautiful country we live in to bad some bad campers are trying to take that from us as well. God bless you and God bless America!

I think social media contributes to your favorite areas seeing more pressure. I made the mistake of telling a friend about one of my favorite spots- a week later he posted beautiful pics on Facebook. In the comments everyone asked where it was and he spilled the beans. These things can go viral.

Also, there are so many "overlanding" and off grid camping apps now that people can get on their phone. What was once an area only known to locals 10 years ago is easily accessible to out of staters now, some of which who leave their trash behind.

The closure in Prescott NF was because homeless were living out there, and trashing a diff site every two weeks.
Going two see an explosion of this with the coming evictions from Covid closures. Small towns along creeks and rivers better prepare now, because trashing watercourses also sends cholera down stream.
That means more closures, fishing restrictions, and more violent confrontations with Feds and sheriffs trying to keep folks moving.
No where else to go, folks need water. No gas to go. No food to travel. Stripping out trees for fires.
Gonna get ugly.

It's all true and everyone knows that wherever people live and play will be fouled and disrespected.

Every comment here will be from 'the good guys' who are revolted and disgusted. No one is going to say they live like a pig and pollute every place they stay but this article has made them self reflect and decide to change their ways.

Not saying it's wrong to write about it, but the real question is what do we do about it.

These are mostly the under 30 crowd that have no respect for anything. I swear the 30 somethings and under are clueless to the future that won't exist soon if they do not stop their careless ways and it shows what POS' their parents were too. Cameras might need tobe put up andhidden in the trees to catch and fry these wilderness destroyers... More folks reporting this would go much further than writing about it like this author did....

It's no surprise to me that people with little or no experience camping are trashing these areas. I'm not condoning. The same type people drop their masks and gloves on the ground, along with their cigarette butts and beer cans.

Education is important, but some people just don't care. When I walk on the weekends, I take plastic bags to gather the trash left behind by careless people. I can imagine what's left behind after a few days camping. I'm not aware of any such areas where I live in Florida.

Hope the ignorant and thoughtless ones will get some education!

My wife and I were up on the Mogollon Rim in AZ in July. What we found in the surrounding forest was appalling.....cans, used toilet paper, children's toys and even a used diaper. I don't disappear into the forest to clean-up for other people but we did just that. I do not understand what would compel people to do such damage.

What can we o to help fix this?

1: If you see slobs trashing our public lands , take pictures or video or them and include their license plates. Then turn them in.

2: My wife and I always walk around our campsite when we get there and pick up any trash we see. We also go for short walks and pick up trash along the way. It's no fun picking up someone else's trash, but we feel it will help public lands open to everyone.

This kind of behavior has to be reported if witnessed. Hit them in the wallet, some only learn in this way.

I've been car camping (& now backpack & kayak) for around 30 years. I've seen pristine camping areas all over, everywhere you look for years & years. In about the last 10 years, it's RARE to find a campsite that doesn't have trash all about, or just simply destroyed with graffiti! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE??? Oh... Mommie isn't there to clean up after you & wipe your butt too!
Grow up, be an adult & actually take responsibility for your actions. This world isn't about you, it's about everyone else around you! Do we trash your home? No? We need to. Do we trash your school? No? We need to. We're just doing what YOU'RE doing. So get over it, snowflake. Don't have a meltdown over that comment, because if you did, YOU are the problem!

In Hawaii there is a place called Hanamah bay that had /has a similar problem as you described happening to our public lands. Their solution was a required class on the ecology of the area and a reinforcement of good stewardship. The class takes about an hour and it has helped reduce ( but by no means stopped) the damage to the area.

I was always taught leave the site cleaner than you found it. I have followed that rule for over 50 years but it seems like every year we find more trash left behind.

Good luck changing the minds & manners of a "few bad apples," and yes it's getting worse not better. It's the "I can go anywhere I want and do anything I want. Screw you and everyone else," attitude.

For several years we’ve done dispersed camping in a national forest area bordering on a private lake - it was always quiet and serene, some weekends we were the only people up there. Our first (and only) 2020 visit in June, there was trash all over and camps set up in every conceivable spot. Several were parties of a dozen people or more, mostly teenage and college age kids (there is a college town nearby.) Fires were left unattended, music was blasted, kids kept wandering through our campsite trying to find cell service, loads of people we’re illegally fishing and canoeing in the lake. Later in the summer there were reports of people shooting guns into the lake and the county sheriff clearing out entire campsites in the middle of the night for getting out of control. We found similar situations when looking into other dispersed areas, and all the reservable camping in our area is booked for the rest of the year, so that pretty much put an end to our camping season, sadly.