James Pinsky: Critters don’t litter

James Pinsky


Think a deer is cute? You wouldn’t if it tossed an empty bag of potato chips and a cigarette butt on your lawn every time it strolled by your house.

Whoa dude. I didn’t even know deer smoked.

They don’t. Bambi’s forest fur posse of squirrels, black bears, coyotes and bobcats don’t either. In fact, they don’t drink soda, eat Milk Duds or need grandpa’s old recliner to relax after a long day of frolicking through the forest. Nope, critters don’t litter.

“Animals don’t understand litter, it’s not part of their environment,” said Sheila Barnett, an environmental educator with Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation. Barnett said any kind of litter, even something as seemingly innocent as an apple core, can cause problems because it disrupts wildlife. In this case, an apple core can draw animals unnaturally close to the road where they can be hit or even cause an auto accident.

To be honest, I’m not even sure why we use the term “litterbug” in the first place. After all, no creature on Earth, even a bug, trashes its home except us. Yet, every year thousands of pounds of trash finds its way along our roadways, in our state parks, rivers and streams.

As conservationists, keeping litter out of all of our natural resources should be and is a top priority. Why bother spending millions of dollars and thousands of hours to save our natural resources if we’re just going to, uh – trash them?

We here at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District highly encourage anyone and everyone to help keep Virginia trash-free. You see, litter is much more than an eyesore or nuisance, it can be absolutely deadly to Virginia wildlife.

There is something we can do to help keep Virginia clean though …

Like many great conservationists in and around Virginia, Barnett is much more than the voice of reason when it comes to keeping Virginia trash-free. She’s also a save-the-world enabler who gives us a way to help keep Virginia clean. You see, Barnett is the coordinator for the Virginia’s Adopt-a-Stream program, which is a statewide program to reduce litter while advancing citizen stewardship and understanding of the commonwealth’s precious waterways.

The Adopt-a-Stream program is part of the Stewardship Virginia program, which is a statewide initiative held twice annually to help citizens with projects that enhance and conserve Virginia’s natural and cultural resources.

According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, last year alone 57 Adopt-a-Stream groups made up of 1112 adults and 343 children donated 4,374 hours of volunteer service to complete 75 stream cleanups. Their selfless efforts to pick up behind us netted 1,326 bags of litter from 238 miles of streams and shorelines. Imagine if we did a statewide litter removal event? I doubt Costco would have enough trash bags, which is sad because Virginians ought not to need any. While donating hundreds of volunteer hours to keep Virginia’s waterways beautiful is a noble cause, it is one, which is completely preventable.

Like I said, critters don’t litter, and neither should we.

Want to know more about how you can help?

Stewardship Virginia: For more information on how to participate in or contribute to Stewardship Virginia, call 1-877-42-WATER. In Richmond call (804) 786-5056, fax (804) 371-0315 or email: bonnie.phillips@dcr.virginia.gov. or visit them online: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/environmental-education/stewardship

Adopt-a-Stream: For more information on how to participate in Adopt-a-Stream, contact Sheila Barnett, Adopt-a-Stream Coordinator at sheila.barnett@dcr.virginia.gov, or by phone at 804-786-1815 or visit them online: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/environmental-education/adopt

James Pinsky is the education and information coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.