BYU-Idaho group to host sand dune cleanup day
A news release sent out by the Bureau of Land Management last week sparked a wildfire of internet discussion of litter at the St. Anthony Sand Dunes.
The news release quoted a BLM employee who had recently visited the sand dunes to prepare it for the spring recreation season, only to discover thousands of metal nails sticking out of the sand, leftover from illegal wood pallet burns.
“I pulled up to the area to complete some sign maintenance and I noticed thousands of dark lines in the sand,” said BLM Recreation Planner Ben Cisna in the news release. “I didn’t know what it was at first, but as I got closer I realized it was nails.”
In the news release, the BLM referred to Brigham Young University-Idaho students as one of the potential sources of the illegal pallet burns. That didn’t settle well with BYU-I student Carlton Jensen, president of the BYU-Idaho Range Society.
According to Jensen, the Range Society is composed of students studying rangeland management. Rangelands are lands dominated by a natural vegetation of grasses, forbs, and shrubs. Rangeland managers can work for private ranchers, consulting firms and government agencies including the US Forest Service and the BLM.
“The Range Society has been looking for ways that we can do meaningful service in the community,” Jensen said. “When Ben Cisna, the BLM outdoor recreation planner, posted pictures of nails in the sand dunes, I thought it would be a great project. I never thought that it would attract this much support and encouragement from the community.”
Jensen, a 24-year-old freshman from west Colorado, said he and his wife went out exploring at the dunes recently and found the same scenario that Cisna did.
“Me and my wife went out there, and it looks like the sand shifted,” he said. “People have their fires on top of the dunes, but the nails are being found at the bottom of the dune. From my perception, it’s years of use and it’ll keep on doing that.”
Jensen said that although he’s no geologist, he believes that metal fragments like nails leftover from wood pallet burning settle into the sand, resulting in being buried until strong winds push around the sand and reveal the metal on the surface. He said that the only thing that can stop nails from being exposed in the sand is for them to stop being brought to the dunes in the first place via pallet burning.
“The biggest thing I would like to see from this is public outreach and get the burning of pallets to stop,” he said. “Even if we stopped them all right now, we’ll still have nails show up in the sand for more years.”
Jensen said he knows fellow BYU-I students go out to the dunes to have a good time, but not enough of them understand what is and isn’t allowed.
“I’m completely supportive of these college kids going out there and having fun, but you have to be careful,” he cautioned. “I don’t think college students are trying to break the rules, they don’t know what they’re doing. They shoot out there too. They don’t know where to go. I understand community members wanting to keep their fun spots secret, but we need to communicate better about recreation areas and what is and isn’t allowed by BLM and the county. I’m sure most of them aren’t out there to cause damage, and only a few don’t care.”
The BYU-Idaho Range Society will be hosting a sand dunes cleanup day on Saturday, March 24, beginning at 10 a.m. Also participating is the BYU-Idaho Geology Society, the BYU-Idaho Wildlife Society, St. Anthony Duners — Home of the Locals, and Sportsmen for a Cleaner Fremont County. Volunteers will need to bring a pair of good outdoor shoes, work gloves, magnets, and rakes.
“I am hoping that this is just the first of many student driven cleanups of public land,” Jensen said. “It is my hope that we can start doing this each semester. We already have next semester’s cleanup scheduled for May 19, the Saturday before Memorial Day Weekend.”
Jensen said that he understands that if the whole community, not just BYU-Idaho students, doesn’t give recreation areas the respect they deserve, the opportunities to have fun in those areas will end.
“We can go clean it up so many times, but if the pallets still get out there then there will always be more nails,” Jensen said. “I want the community to see the college students care about the community, and this is us giving back to the community for letting us come here. I don’t want to see this area get barred off to access, because if these problems continue that’s what the BLM will do. We need to show we’re responsible and that we care for the lands and the community, and if we don’t show that then we might have that privilege taken away. I don’t want to see that happen.”
For more information on the cleanup day, visit the BYU-Idaho Range Society’s page on Facebook.