Since June 24, employees of Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest have cleaned up more than 3,200 pounds of trash and dealt with several cases of vandalism.
The U.S. Forest Service say that unfortunately this type of damage is an all too-common occurrence. Over the last few years the Forest Service has removed many large items like couches, refrigerators, and tires from Montana public lands.
Dumping is illegal on public land and depending on what is being thrown away, there can be a significant impact on the ecosystem. Debris such as tires can also pose significant risks during a wildfire, and even change a fire’s behavior.
Vandalism is another concern for the U.S. Forest Service. Every year, employees have to repair signs, outhouses, and picnic tables and at campgrounds. The picnic tables at the Ten Mile Picnic Area are currently unusable after vandals broke apart several boards.
Depending on the violation, a person dumping on public land or committing vandalism can face fines or even jail time.
Kathy Bushnell with the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest said that the cleanup takes away staff and funding that could be used from other projects.
“When we have these sites where people leave furniture or the big items or even the smaller campsite messes, that does take away from our Recreation folks being out doing the work we had planned.,” said Bushnell.
People should also avoid burning anything other than wood in their campfires. Burning leftover food is particularly not recommended since it can attract animals like bears that then associate the campsite as a food source. The dumping of animal carcasses can also have the same effect.
Bushnell said that despite the dumping issues the Forest Service sees, the majority of people visiting national forests are respectful.
“We do have a lot of people we know that are helping us out by keeping their campsites clean and helping pick up others trash,” said Bushnell, “We just want to give a big thank you to them.”