There isn’t much that can ruin a trip into nature than coming across garbage along the woodline.
Whether it’s dog poo bags left behind that might biodegrade, water bottles, food wrappers, or tires, trash harms the ecosystem.
And that’s precisely what national forest officials are regularly struggling with at Mark Twain National Forest (MTNF.)
We decided to look at what they’re doing to combat this problem.
Let’s dig in!
Trash and Tires Removed from Mark Twain National Forest
In March 2022, a crew of six volunteers from Godi’s Excavating LLC performed a week-long garbage cleanup in two areas of MTNF. They used a small excavator and dump truck to work in the Eleven Point and Poplar Bluff Ranger Districts.
These volunteers filled just under four 30-yard dumpsters with mattresses, tires, and other trash. That’s about 16 tons of illegal dumping on National Forest land in southeast Missouri.
The areas cleaned up weren’t just dump sites created by the violators but also garbage tossed along roads. All the roadside garbage collected was within 100 feet of either side of the roadways.
Multiple Trash Removal Actions in 2022
This instance of trash removal is not the only one in MTNF this year. More than 250 tires and almost 28 tons of garbage were removed from the Dent County area in early April. This cleanup is the third one organized by the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) so far in 2022.
Ozark Rivers Solid Waste Management District (ORSWMD) coordinated cleanups that resulted in almost two tons of garbage cleared in Phelps and Gasconade counties.
They also assisted with two other clean-ups, resulting in almost 8 tons of trash, in Pulaski and Washington counties. ORSWMD has cleared nearly 38 tons of illegally-dumped garbage from its seven-county district.
Ongoing Efforts to Keep Mark Twain National Forest Clean
As mentioned earlier, the cleanups occurring so far this year are not the first. The Poplar Bluff Ranger District (PBRD) has been fighting this battle for years. In 2018, PBRD employees had decided enough was enough, and together with Simmons Tire and Auto, tire cleanup had begun.
By the end of 2019, the team collected 705 tires that were illegally dumped or rolled down a hillside. If they had all been passenger car-sized tires, the total weight was no less than 14,000 pounds. But the tires were of various sizes and weights, and with mud and muck stuck to the old tires, the total weight was much more than that.
Of course, these tires were scattered across multiple locations, not just dumped in one area. Officials believe the dumping occurs because people don’t want to pay a disposal fee when purchasing new tires for their vehicles.
About Mark Twain National Forest
MTNF is not a small space, making keeping this public space clear of trash and debris much more challenging. It encompasses over 1.5 million acres scattered across 29 counties in southeast Missouri.
Located in the geological region known as the Ozarks, this national forest is within an hour’s drive of multiple metro areas, including St. Louis. The landscape is mainly hills and forests.
Initially home to Native Americans for thousands of years, European settlers found some of the land difficult to farm. Nevertheless, they persisted because of the area’s natural resources.
As we know it today, the forest began in 1976, but its beginnings date back to 1939. The geographic area contains thousands of caves, springs, nationally recognized streams, and old volcanic mountains.
The MTNF is home to over 750 miles of hiking trails and over 350 miles of streams suitable for kayaks or canoes. The park also offers a campground and OHV trails.
Help Keep Our National Forests Clean
The best way to win the battle against illegal dumping on public lands is to report any dumpsites you find or the people doing the dumping if you witness it. Whether it’s MTNF or another public forest, notifying the Forest Service district for that area will help.
To enjoy our national forests safely and provide enjoyment for the future, we must tread lightly and do our best to leave no trace.
Simply put, leave no trace means that we pack out whatever we take with us, leave wildlife alone, and stick to the groomed trails. We respect the space to leave it as good or better than we found it.
Please, Leave No Trace
Mark Twain National Forest is not the only public land space overrun by garbage and other illegal activities. But with 1.5 million acres of forest scattered across three million acres of public and private land, it’s a big challenge. We can all do our part to leave these natural spaces better than we found them.
Have you encountered garbage on public lands? What did you do? Let us know in the comments below!
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