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September 13, 2001|By AL KALIN, Special to this newspaper

Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you and pigs look you right in the eye.

We have become a nation of pigs. I'm talking about trash. No matter where you drive in our Valley, the ground is littered with trash and the volume is growing.

Oil spills and secret dumping of toxic chemicals by large companies has received tons of publicity in the past but blatant disregard for the environment by industry is rare today. The cost of pubic outrage and increased government regulation keep the large businesses in check.

The real culprit is "Joe Citizen". He's the one responsible for the volumes of rubbish littering our Imperial Valley. Although local, state and federal agencies spend millions of dollars yearly to educate and inform the public about littering, we still act like pigs. To exacerbate the problem, few are ever cited for the offense.


Look around the perimeter of any city in the Valley and you'll see what I'm talking about. On the north edge of Brawley, for example, along Fredricks Road between Highway 111 and Hovely Road, the couches, mattresses, stoves, refrigerator, and tires form a solid wall.

I'm not picking on Brawley — it's the same around all the cities. Find any brushy area around a city and I guarantee you will find a bonanza of trash left by those too lazy to go to a dump.

Tires are the latest fad. We didn't seem to have a problem with tires before stringent laws were implemented mandating what to do with the used tires, but now with a disposal fee being charged for used tires, they adorn every road in our county. It's hard to believe this newest law could be called progress.

It's amazing how piles of tires grow. It's as if they were breeding. Someone recently dumped 50 tires alongside the county road next to our ranch. This was not someone cleaning out their garage and hauling the pickup load out to the country. This was a large truckload of tires. It included car tires, truck tires and agricultural tractor tires. I suspect it came from a small tire shop in the city close to where the tires were found but the sheriff's deputy who answered my call said there was no way he could prove where the tires originated.

The tires are still there but now it has grown by another 25 tires as more deadbeats add to the pile.

On the outdoor scene littering is just as bad. The dikes along our end of the Salton Sea are heavily littered after every weekend. Not too long ago I watched a fancy Bluebird motor home, towing a Mercedes SUV, park alongside one of the dikes to fish. When they left a few days later two large trash bags full of trash marked their camping spot. How these people's minds work is beyond me. You would think they could take the trash back where it came from.

The dikes are not public property. They are all privately owned and could be closed to future fishing in a heartbeat. Luckily, the local fishermen, the regulars who fish the dikes, usually clean up after the weekends.

One of the worse kinds of litter is fishing line left behind by anglers. Once submerged underwater, fishing line can last for years without any breakdown at all. We all need to remember to take our used fishing line back home with us. I watched a great blue heron fly by the other day with a big wad of fishing line wrapped around his foot. His chance of surviving is not good. As soon as the line becomes tangled in tree branches he will be history.

Hunters can be just as bad. Recently a group of hunters from Los Angeles asked if they could hunt doves on our property and I allowed it but asked them to please pick up their empty shotshell hulls and trash before they left. They did pick up all the trash but forgot to take it with them. Empty shotshells, beer cans, soda pop cans, empty water bottles, dove feathers and entrails were all piled neatly in the corner of the field.

This type of behavior has become the rule instead of the exception. National surveys done recently show the No. 1 reason private land owners have posted their property and closed off access to hunters and fishermen is because of littering. They have become sick and tired of cleaning up after the weekend pigs.

On a happy note, though, while talking to Leon Lesicka about the success of the state's game bird heritage food plots near Niland, I heard some good news. Lesicka told me the hunters did an excellent job of policing up the trash around the fields. Those are the type of outdoorsmen welcome here anytime of the year and I hope to see more of them as Lesicka and his crew double the acreage for next year.

Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the Internet at

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