Along the road to Cartier WMA, are several areas where target shooters have created an unsightly mess with their litter. It may come as a surprise to some to learn that shotgun shells are litter too.

Many years ago, when I wore a badge, carried a gun and drove around in a truck belonging to Idaho Department of Fish and Game, I spent many days walking up and down river banks checking fishermen. I was appalled by the amount of trash I found everywhere. I made it a goal to catch someone in the act of littering.

One day, driving along the Clearwater River, it happened. I was behind a pick-up truck when an arm jutted from the passenger window. I could see that the attached hand held a can of some sort and the arm made several bending motions, as if trying to aim for the perfect spot. Then the can flew from the hand and I caught my first litterer in the act.

Littering is literally a dirty business. It is unsightly and a shameful way to treat our public and private lands. Moreover, it is often dangerous for wildlife. That wildlife gets entangled in the plastic 6-pack rings is pretty common knowledge. Wildlife that get snared by discarded fishing line seldom survive the encounter. There are many instances of wildlife sickened by consuming trash or choking on our junk.

I am writing this on Earth Day 2018, themed, End Plastic Pollution. According to their website (, “Currently about 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year to make bags, bottles, packages, and other commodities for people all over the world. Unfortunately, only about ten percent of this plastic is properly recycled and reused. The rest ends up as waste in landfills or as litter in our natural environment, where it leaches dangerous chemicals into the nearby soil and water, endangering humans and wildlife alike.” That is a pretty big deal and means that the littering of plastics is more than unsightly.

You might think that someone who enjoys the outdoors would be a big supporter of any anti-litter campaign. It has been my experience though, that hunters and fishermen are some of the worst offenders. River banks often resemble landfills, covered in the detritus of fishing. Bait containers, cans, bottles, baby diapers, wads of fishing line and more are common litter items that fishermen leave.

I have been in many hunting camps where a lot of trash was left behind but that isn’t the biggest problem. For hunters, it is target shooting. Granted not all target shooters are hunters, but all hunters are target shooters. Shooting glass objects, leaving targets behind and failing to pick up spent rounds all contributes dramatically to litter and has consequences too.

A few years ago, the BLM cleaned up the area of public land north and west of the Menan Buttes. It had become a dumping ground for those too cheap to use the landfills and target shooters, seeing this, left their own mark. This effort cost many thousands of taxpayer dollars and in the end, the area was closed to target shooting altogether.

I think virtually all of us have littered at some point so this may be a bit self-righteous. I remember times when both doors of my truck were opened at the same time and the wind grabbed all the candy wrappers carelessly deposited on the seat and spun them out of the truck and into the air. We sometimes didn’t recover all those wildly gyrating wrappers, thus becoming part of the problem, albeit unintentionally.

We can all do a better job at reducing litter. If we care about our public lands and the opportunities they afford, we should take better care of them.

Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho