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Mobile App Motivates Recreationalists to Report Environmental Damages

Recreational users on public lands can now use an app to report vandalism such as that at the Meeker Ranch homestead in 2016. (
Recreational users on public lands can now use an app to report vandalism such as that at the Meeker Ranch homestead in 2016. (
February 26, 2018

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Recreational visitors to public lands have a new tool to document any damage they see and upload their report to a database.

Brian Sybert is executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation. He said the new mobile app, TerraTRUTH, is needed because public lands are at risk now that the Trump administration has begun easing protective regulations to allow expanded oil and gas drilling.

He said hikers or other outdoor users can help track damages they see by downloading the app.

"And then once that's downloaded onto your phone, you can get out onto the ground in national monuments, national conservation lands and document, through use of the app, things that might be negative impacts on the ground,” Sybert said.

Sybert noted that after information is uploaded to the data base from the TerraTruth app, the Foundation will sort the data and use it to guide land management planning or support lawsuits. Those convicted of vandalizing facilities managed by the BLM are subject to fines up to $1,000 and imprisonment.

Sybert said the app gives outdoor enthusiasts a direct way to be stewards of those lands.

"Whether it is vandalism to archeological sites, anything that could be a disturbance to a landscape that is public land you can capture with the app,” he said. “It geolocates it onto a map and it uploads it into a database."

In South Dakota, archeologists worry that if national monument boundaries are not protected by the Trump administration, sites could be ravaged by looters. A Tyrannosaurus rex that was unearthed in South Dakota in 1990 sold at auction for more than $8 million.

Sybert said it's more important than ever that people who use public lands participate in their protection.

"Our public lands are a key part of our democracy,” Sybert said. “And this is a way for the public to engage in the democratic process behind protecting our public lands, and this is a key part of it."

Last year, President Donald Trump drastically scaled back two national monuments in Utah, a move that is now being challenged in court. South Dakota escaped having any national monuments reduced in size.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD