It was 1971 when we were all introduced to Iron Eyes Cody, dressed as a Native American, openly shedding a tear in a public service announcement over what he saw as the destruction of America’s natural beauty due to people’s thoughtless littering. Everywhere around Cody in the commercial was pollution: air, water, and the garbage thrown from a car and landing at his feet.

It is the latter of those three examples that makes up the crux of this editorial. Wayne County Sheriff Larry Pierce has organized strict enforcement of the litter laws as a deterrent to those who throw trash from their vehicles along a county roadway or allow unsecured litter to fly from trailers and trucks.

“There’s just so much trash being thrown out,” reporter Sierra Henry quoted Sheriff Pierce in Thursday’s News-Argus. “We’re finding whole trash bags on the side of the road; we’re finding mattresses, chairs, TVs, so we are having a real problem in Wayne County with trash.”

It’s a travesty that the sheriff’s office has to go into such robust enforcement mode to ensure people do what is their responsibility to do: not litter. Wayne County has many beautiful spots marred with food bags, drink cans and various other small litter items that accumulate into mass piles. Add to that the TVs and electronic hardware, couches and chairs, rusted vehicles and so much more junk, it’s impossible to see the beauty through the trash.

Fines of $100 and $250 are set for people caught littering. We encourage the sheriff’s office to keep up this level of enforcement and write as many tickets as necessary to get people who litter to wake up and knock it off. Seriously, how tough is it place a litter bag in a car or truck and empty it at home or in a receptacle when it is full? How long does it take to ensure that the ropes, tarps and bungee cords holding trash down in a truck bed or on a trailer are tight and secure?

It was 48 years ago that Iron Eyes Cody had a bag of smelly trash thrown at his feet. Today, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office finds itself dealing with the same mess. We hope that it won’t take another five decades for all people finally to act responsibly and keep America and Wayne County beautiful.