Human Impact, White Mountains – I usually write a few blog articles a year that are focused on the impact we have on the environment, and today is a good day for one. I have always felt that in order to get people to care more for the environment photographers have to show the impact that is happening in the world.
Every day beautiful landscape photos of the New Hampshire White Mountains are posted on all the social networking websites, and this creates a false belief that the White Mountains are in a state of pristine condition. In life, and as an environmental photographer, I'm a realist, and I don’t believe in this fantasy world approach to conservation. Today, I am going to share with you a few unflattering images of the White Mountains.
There has been a steady increase in backcountry camping, and along with this comes more trash being left in the White Mountain National Forest. The problem is it is not just beer cans and cigarette butts being left behind. Complete campsites, like the above one, are being abandoned in the forest. Tents, sleeping bags and cloths are being left to decay in the forest. You can view how some camping sites are being left in the forest here.
While some of the abandoned campsites are deep in the backcountry of the White Mountains, others (above) are located close to the roads. What you see above is how the campsite was left and trash was blowing around the area for weeks. Two tents, a tarp, chairs, food, and numerous other camping gear were all left at this site.
In 2011, an out-of-state volunteer trail crew that was working in the Pemigewasset Wilderness rerouted a wet section of the Wilderness Trail. Unfortunately, the rerouted section (above) of trail travels directly over an artifact field at Camp 18 of the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad. Though no harm was meant, this trail reroute will have significant impact on this historical site because hikers are walking on surface artifacts. Steps have been taken to ensure this doesn't happen again. You can view more images of the rerouted section here.
I think most people who spend time in the great outdoors have come across one or two tires discarded in the forest. I recently read that it takes 50 to 80 years for rubber tires to decompose naturally which means the tires above will remain in the forest for many years to come. I fully understand when people claim seeing trash in the middle of the forest ruins there outdoor experience.
I will never understand the fascination with spray painting objects along the trail system of the White Mountain National Forest. I am finding graffiti deep in the forest, which tells me people are willfully putting a can of spray paint into their backpack with the intention of leaving their mark somewhere in nature. In 2014, I was shooting along the Mount Tremont Trail and came across the above boulder covered in graffiti.
In 2011, near Camp 15 of the old East Branch & Lincoln Railroad in the Pemigewasset Wilderness, the above utility pole, considered an artifact, was knocked down and then burned in a campfire. As you can see, only a portion of it was burned. There are only a handful of these utility poles still standing along the EB&L Railroad and once they fall another piece of history is forever lost. The EB&L was in operation from 1893–1948 which means this utility pole stood for at least 68 years before someone came along and knocked it down.
There are number of timber harvest projects going on in the White Mountain National Forest. Trees that will be cut during a timber harvest are marked with paint, and these painted marks (above) remain on the tree stumps for years after the trees have been cut. This approach to marking trees goes against leave no trace principles.
Over the last few years, I have noticed an increase in plastic water bottles being thrown along the trail system of the White Mountains. The time it takes for some types of plastics to completely breakdown is amazing. When you have a chance research how long it takes for plastic bottles to biodegrade. In 2014, I came across this old plastic bottle with skull & crossbones on it in Kinsman Notch. I have always wondered what was in it.
The above wound on a yellow birch tree along the Tecumseh Trail I photographed in 2015. In 2012, a painted trail blaze was improperly removed (cutting and peeling the bark) from this tree, and this is how the wound looked in 2015. This practice of blaze removal is avoided because of the impact it has on trees. You can view a series of images that show this trail blaze wound at different stages of healing here.
I have been documenting the environment for much of my photography career, and I realize that most people don’t enjoy viewing this type of imagery because its not how we envision the White Mountains. But the impact is real and should be of concern to everyone that loves the White Mountains region.
All of the above images can be licensed for publications by clicking on the image you are interested in, and you can view more scenes of human impact here.
Happy image making..