Preserving alternative: Outside recreation via the eyes of a recreation warden, Half 2

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Editor’s note: This story follows on from last week’s episode. Sgt. Chris Busching, who covers all counties of Grant, Adams, and Douglas, had checked out a fisherman with three warrants and a first-degree license. The man was not taken into custody due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting prison occupancy. Go here or get the June 3rd edition of Part 1.

MOSE LAKE – Sgt. Chris Busching of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Police next stops at the boulders in front of Crab Creek Overlook. Opposite, in the middle of the mugwort, is a car.

He examines the route the car took to get there and the demolished bush steppe along the way.

“People think, ‘We’re in east Washington. We can go anywhere. There is so much mugwort, ‘”he said. “Well, there is only a limited amount of it and it is wildlife habitat.”

Busching gets out and introduces himself to the campers.

Turns out the couple got a ticket yesterday for being outside. Your car is broken; they need a jump.

To get them out, Busching has to drive his rig through the wilderness and damage it further. There was already a trail, said the driver, implying that people have made it before.

They put the boulders there to prevent that, explains Busching.

With the broken alternator in the car, Busching had to jump several times and help out to get back on the road and deepen the track.

The next person will likely use this as an excuse for why they’re out there, Busching said.

“This is how gates are locked and places are closed,” he said.

Such land problems – which leave lasting effects on the environment – are a big deal that Busching encounters, he said. Many people also set off fireworks or light a fire for nothing but bone-dry mugwort.

Another big problem out here is dumped or stolen vehicles, he said.

Busching is in his 10th year in the Department of Fish & Wildlife, he said. Originally from Boston, he struggled growing up and lived with his grandparents in Brewster as a junior in high school.

After some ridesharing with the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, he went to college to study criminal justice.

Busching is a bit of an adrenaline junkie, he said. The job tends to accomplish this.

Plus, it’s a stable career with a varied schedule and allows officers to retire young, he said.

Towards the end of the gravel road, now with a view of the Potholes Reservoir, another group of campers is set up around the boulders with an off-road car. Another momentary thoughtlessness that leaves permanent scars.

“Lots of people come here to see wildlife and nature, and since all the cities are being built that crowd animals, take land where there was once habitat, there are fewer animals,” said Busching. “I want to make sure that there are animals for my children and grandchildren.”

The campers have the same excuses as before. Didn’t read the sign.

Obviously, they shouldn’t be driving through mugwort between two narrow boulders as they are before, but they “go off-road all the time,” says one of them.

Plus, there were already traces there – of others breaking the rules.

The campers moved their car and put the boulders back where they belong. During the next patrol, different campers will have similar excuses, he said.

Busching will correct them too, and the cycle will continue.

Sam Fletcher can be reached at [email protected]

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