Copperstate 4 Wheelers complete annual cleanup across Tonto National Forest

Every November, volunteers from Copperstate 4 Wheelers spread out across Tonto National Forest on a mission to collect and haul out tons of trash.

This year marked the eighth annual cleanup of the forest as trucks were driven into the desert and volunteers worked to maintain Arizona’s natural beauty in the Four Peaks area.

They find everything from furniture to hundreds of bullet shells.

Chad Chaney is the president of Copperstate 4 Wheelers, a club formed in 1972 by a group of families looking to promote family-style four wheeling in a safe and enjoyable manner, while also protecting the environment.

“When we first started this cleanup, we started with a simple compactor truck and we loaded that up in no time, and then in subsequent years we went to two 40-yard roll-off dumpsters and now we’re filling four 40-yard roll-off dumpsters every year,” Chaney said.

“Last year we hauled out 27,000 pounds of garbage and the year before that, in 2015, it was 47,000,” he said.

Members of the Copperstate 4 Wheelers organize the Four Peaks Cleanup every year.

Every November, they hope the amount of trash collected will continue to decline as they encourage everyone to follow a few simple rules.

“Take back what you bring out, don’t leave any trash you shoot up, make sure you take it back with you,” said Carrie Templin, a Public Affairs Officer for Tonto National Forest.

The Four Peaks Cleanup is dedicated to preserving Tonto National Forest and preventing the amount of trash being discarded in Arizona’s desert.

“You know, the ultimate goal would be to put the Copperstate 4 Wheelers out of a job, where they don’t have to pick up 40,000 tons of trash every year,” Templin said.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, nearly six million people visit the forest every year for recreational activities like target shooting, hiking and horseback riding.

“It’s very important we come every year to clean this up because if we leave this trash here, they’re eventually going to close this place,” said Mike Knowles, a volunteer.

Forest advocates urge visitors to act responsibly and take out their trash.

Starting Nov. 20 people who bring inappropriate shooting targets, like propane tanks, into the Tonto National Forest may be fined up to $5,000.

Cronkite News Digital Producer Crescencia CeCe Faz contributed to this article.