Pahrump, Nevada, has been HOWA’s home base since its inception, so the Nevada desert holds a special place in our hearts. That’s why, during the spring 2022 BYOV (Bring Your Own Vehicle) build in Pahrump, a group of HOWA volunteers took it upon themselves to clean up the desert.
For Jaime Abbas-Restorff, it all started when she drove past some king-size piles of garbage on her way to the build. And we mean that literally—she saw a king-size box spring and a household toilet littering the desert, among other large piles of trash. “The people of Pahrump open up their community to us when we travel here as nomads,” says Jaime. “We want to leave the land better than we found it.”
Meanwhile, BYOV volunteer Georgia and HOWA Executive Assistant Phyllis Bickford had the same idea. Independent of Jaime and her co-organizer Jake Holster, they contacted the Pahrump BLM Field Office to ask about collaborating on a cleanup effort.
At first, the two groups were unaware that they worked separately toward a common goal. But over the course of the month-long build, what began as two small independent cleanup efforts (using volunteers’ pickup trucks to transport garbage) transformed into something much bigger.
Every Friday morning in April was dedicated to cleaning up the BLM land east of Pahrump. Dozens of volunteers participated, despite long days and weeks spent working on vehicle buildouts. The BLM Field office even supplied 30-yard dumpsters to ferry trash to the local dump where it belonged. All HOWA had to do was fill them up.
By the end of April, HOWA volunteers had put in hundreds of hours and picked up over 100 yards of trash.
Nicholas Pay, Pahrump’s BLM Field Manager, shared a hearty thank-you message: “Please pass on my thanks and admiration to the volunteers of your organization that have helped clean up our public lands … The work that you accomplished in a relatively short time is absolutely incredible.”
Jaime even shed a few tears when she was able to admire the beautiful landscape without a pile of trash in sight. ”It made me cry because it looked so different than it did before,” she says.
As nomads, we gratefully use these lands for dispersed camping. Acting as responsible stewards of public land is just one way we can give back to a community and a landscape that does so much for us. Bob Wells, HOWA President, put it this way: “We aren’t the source of the problem, but we want to be part of the solution.”
Here are some tips for picking up litter wherever you find it:
- Save plastic shopping bags from places like Walmart to pick up trash as you travel. Even picking up a single piece of litter each day adds up over time.
- Set an example. When others see you cleaning up, they notice your example.
- Don’t leave it to the states. More and more dispersed camping areas are closing down because state officials are overwhelmed trying to keep the land healthy. State budgets are feeling the squeeze of higher gas prices and other economic shifts just as you are, so don’t assume that state officials will handle cleanup. We can each make a difference.
The cleanup was such a resounding success that we’re already planning to do it again. In October, we will partner with the Pahrump BLM Field Office once again to pick up any trash that accumulates over the summer on our beloved public lands.
Post written by Sarah Kuiken