Toxic Campfires

Over the past 15 years, I’ve photo documented the many fold increase of resource damage occurring at “free” dispersed campsites along Oregon’s most beautiful rivers and streams. I’ve encountered this in every watershed across western Oregon. In most cases I’ll attempt to clean it up if I can, but many times the amount of garbage is too much.

Recently I learned that cleaning up fire rings with burned garbage in it is extremely hazardous. Most fire rings have been used at one time or another to burn garbage including plastics, which creates a mini superfund site.  These toxic fire pits are a health hazard to anyone who subsequently camps at these sites or is responsible for cleaning them up for future users.

The U.S. Forest Service funded research and created a five-page brochure in 2004 to alert Forest Service and BLM personnel to the hazards contained in these fire pits. However, every Forest Service employee I’ve communicated with over the past several years regarding this toxic fire pit issue has never seen this brochure until I sent it to them.

Most dispersed campsites are within 200 feet of streams and rivers, thus this toxic fire pit ash will eventually leach into water supplies like Eugene and Springfield’s.

I’d propose instead of subsidizing logging of our National Forests to the tune of about $2 billion per year, the Forest Service regulate and maintain the many thousands of dispersed campsites in our national forests.

Shannon Wilson


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