Leslie Auriemmo is not popular among the drinking crowd that likes to float a few of Michigan’s rivers that run through the Huron-Manistee National Forest.
In fact, some folks who don’t like the government telling them to wear seat belts are a bit bent of shape.
Auriemmo is Forest Supervisor for the national forest and one of the first things she did after the government shutdown ended was sign an order banning possession of alcohol on parts of the Pine, Au Sable and Manistee rivers that run through the national forest.
According to a story on the NBC25News.com website, no booze is allowed between May 24 and Sept. 2 on or within 200 feet of the rivers. The rule does allow it on private lands and in campgrounds on those rivers, however.
“The closure order is intended to address persistent public safety issues and protect natural resources on rivers of outstanding recreational value,” Auriemmo said. “Our goal is to create a safer, more sustainable, and more enjoyable experience for the thousands of visitors who recreate on our National Wild and Scenic Rivers each year.”
If caught with alcohol, violators could face a $5,000 fine or up to six months in jail, according the order Auriemmo signed.
This news lit up social media when the news story was shared around on outdoor-related Facebook pages.
Leading the charge were the anti-nanny-government spokespeople, saying things like government was trying to take away fun from the general populace.
Then some others spoke up in favor of the regulation, believing that the main reason was not so much safety of people swilling beer and wine coolers as the floated in tubes, canoes and kayaks down the river, but because the inebriated tend to litter.
That is totally believable.
As a fan of kayaking and fishing rivers myself, it is appalling how much trash finds its way into our flowages. One social media-ite suggested that litterers on rivers ought to be fined a flat thousand dollars, with half of it going to the person who reported them.
That’s a little too Orwellian-Big Brother for yours truly, but littering anywhere and especially on rivers ought to have consequences – consequences severe enough to serve as a deterrent.
Fact is, when Michigan first passed the bottle/can deposit law back in 1976, gas cost 56 cents a gallon. A dime was worth something. It’s too easy and economical to toss empty beverage cans and bottles into the wild these days.
Sure, floaters on those national forest rivers can still toss empty cans of soda, but let’s be honest. Folks drinking Coca-Cola aren’t as likely to drink a whole lot of it and lose their inhibitions against littering.
I’ll fess up. I’ve imbibed my share of beer and spirits while on the water. Without wanting to cop a “holier-than-thou” attitude, I’ll also claim I’ve never tossed an empty can or bottle overboard.
Even when I smoked cigarettes, I didn’t drop butts in the water. Litter is disgusting.
So I would like to applaud Leslie Auriemmo for establishing this new rule. Maybe the Michigan legislature could pass an anti-littering law or come up with an enforcement plan to keep all of our waters litter-free.
Outdoors columnist Dave Mull lives in Paw Paw. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.