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.
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.
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.
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.
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.