Recent weekly activity reports from conservation officers (COs) with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are full of evidence of various types of refuse being discarded along frozen waterways.
“Once again, the most common complaint dealt with while on patrol involved anglers leaving their trash behind,” said CO Bret Grundmeier of Hinckley. Grundmeier spends hours each ice fishing season checking anglers and encouraging them to clean up after themselves and remove garbage from lakes. “It is disappointing to find so much trash left on our lakes,” Grundmeier said. “Anglers are urged to police themselves and others.” Minnesota’s fish house removal deadlines are March 2 in the southern part of the state and March 16 in the north.
Conservation officers make a concerted effort this time of the year to monitor and identify possible problem areas.
“I’ve already warned a couple of fish house owners about the litter accumulating outside of their house, which they agreed to clean up,” said Paul Kuske, a conservation officer based in Pierz. “I always tell people the area outside their fish house is not their front yard, it is public waters,” he said. Conservation officers see everything from wooden fish house blocking materials on lakes to empty propane cylinders, plastic bottles, pop cans, and even bags of human waste. All of these materials constitute litter. Littering is a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000.
Used materials should be disposed of with local refuse haulers or at a local landfill. Litter tarnishes nature’s beauty, destroys wildlife habitats and ruins many opportunities for recreation.
Conservation officers also use technology to catch litterbugs, including digital pictures and GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinates.
Excuses like, “I was going to go get that later,” will not work and anyone who leaves garbage on the ice will receive a citation for littering.
Conservation officers also have solid waste civil citation authority. These civil citations are “by the pound” or “by the cubic foot” penalties, and since they are not criminal charges, they don’t require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The person suspected of littering must pay the penalty and clean up the mess.
The DNR offers the following tips to keep Minnesota waterways clean:
- Set an example for others, especially children, by not littering.
- Properly dispose of any materials that could trap or injure wildlife. Check with a local refuse provider or landfill for disposal of items.
- Keep a litter bag or trash container with you when traveling or outdoors.
- Secure trash container covers to prevent wind or animals from spreading litter.
- Cover and secure any vehicle, truck, or trailer carrying refuse.
- When visiting any recreation area, make sure to leave the area clean for the next person to enjoy.