Many things in life are mysteries.

And one of the biggest mysteries is why some people use the North’s wonderful wilderness as their own personal dumping ground.

We saw one of those illegal dumpsites recently when we were invited by K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) to witness a clean-up it was undertaking just off Highway 5.

What we saw was shocking and disturbing, but unfortunately not really that surprising.

A KFN environmental monitoring group called Nahendeh Kehotsendi – which translates to ‘watching the land’ – was cleaning up an ungodly mess on the First Nation’s traditional land.

There was a car, cables and wires, mattresses, tires, stoves and more. It was impossible to say how long the junk was being dumped in the area about two kilometres east of the entrance to the Hay River Reserve, but judging by the condition of the assorted discarded items it hadn’t begun any time recently.

It’s disturbing that anyone would be so irresponsible and disrespectful as to create the dump, especially since the Hay River municipal landfill site is only about two kilometres away.

It is just completely disgusting.

I hope that KFN finds some clues in the junk that will allow the person or persons dumping the garbage to face charges. It’s not always clear why people do it. Of course, part of it may be to avoid dumping fees at the landfill for larger items, but that is not an acceptable excuse.

Perhaps the perpetrators get some kind of kick out of illegal dumping. Perhaps they feel proud that they are being rebellious by not following the rules to preserve the environment.

Illegal dumping is far from just a Northern problem, or even just a problem in rural Canada. In Eastern Canada, I was once taken to an illegal dumpsite in a wooded area right in the middle of a city. There was an absolutely unbelievable amount of junk there, covering several acres. It was obvious that the area had been used as a dumping site for generations.

It is such an egregious offence against the environment, against wildlife and against other people. There can be absolutely no excuse for it.

However, we’re not sure that it can be stopped. Some people are going to behave like that despite public education campaigns, or laws, or general outrage from their fellow citizens.

All we can do – like KFN’s Nahendeh Kehotsendi – is clean up such messes when we see them.

The North has magnificent and vast wilderness, but sometimes we wonder what is hidden in that land if people were to look closely.

We are sure there are other illegal dumpsites.

Nahendeh Kehotsendi – also unofficially known as the Guardians – has heard of a couple of others sites and will be checking them out. They should be commended for their efforts in keeping the environment clean and safe for everyone.

It’s inspiring to see unspoiled wilderness.

The sight of an old rusted car is considerably less inspiring.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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