In the social-media era, Washington’s public lands are being destroyed. What can be done?: Seattle Times

(I like the above video, which is shown on ferries to Washington islands, as it includes both safety and “leave no trace” ideas, and reasons for all the rules)

Thanks to Brian Hawthorne for finding this piece from the Seattle Times.

Lots of info and ideas for fixes in this article, e.g. info on trasher shaming on public media. Here’s how it begins:

Here’s a “wow” statistic from the U.S. Forest Service: In 2018, wilderness rangers buried more than 400 piles of human waste found scattered throughout the Enchantments near Leavenworth, which, minus the poo, is one of the loveliest wilderness destinations in all of Washington.

A bonus “wow”: The Enchantments camping zone, because of its immense popularity, is equipped with nine privies, all intended to make improper plopping avoidable. Nevertheless, on more than 400 occasions last year, according to a Forest Service spokesperson, visitors decided to plop with impunity and just walk away.

What is going on?

“It’s unbelievable how much surface pooping is going on out there,” said Craig Romano, a year-round hiker and author of 20 hiking guides for The Mountaineers Books. “I’m coming across it in places I never expected, even remote areas. I find it in the middle of a trail. And toilet paper. Streams of it! What I’m seeing is incredible. It’s absolutely disgusting.”

.. and then on to the end.

Perhaps most vital to the cause: Lots of volunteers who keep visitors in line.

“What’s really unique is there are so many folks out here who are incredibly passionate about this landscape and protecting these lands,” Teague said. “There’s a lot of eyes and ears on the land right now. They’re doing their best to engage with folks and share what’s appropriate and what’s the best outcome for the land. We have a whole bunch of people willing to be out there in force.”

Marcia deChadenedes, manager of San Juan Islands National Monument, says a group of roughly 30 volunteers have kept an eye on Lopez Island for almost three decades.

“They thank people for having their dogs on a leash, or if the dog does not have one, they will hand the owner a leash they brought with them,” she said. “The American public is much in debt to the locals of the San Juan Islands for how well these lands are managed, because these people put all kinds of energy into it.”

How do volunteers deal with contentious visitors? Use an earthy answer to turn away wrath, Teague says.

“Leave No Trace has done a really good job of figuring this out,” Teague said. “We focus on the authority of the resource and what’s happening to the resource due to visitor behavior. We can talk about songbirds that nest close to the trail and how their patterns might be affected if people or their dogs go off trail. It’s not really about the rules, it’s about how they’re affecting the resource.

“It’s a really good technique,” Teague said. “It doesn’t work in every scenario, but it has a lot of power. It’s definitely an art in applying that on the ground in real time. We have a lot of success by smiling and sharing information.”

Watts likewise believes a considerate approach is better than a combative one. “What we’ve found is, if we can have meaningful interactions with people and provide that ‘why’ — why we’re asking them to follow these principles and guidelines — that really makes a difference when it comes to altering behavior and swaying people to protect the land,” she said.

I think that maybe the presence of obvious volunteers has some kind of psychological legitimacy just short of actual law enforcement visibility. Also the fairness concept might creep in (as in why should I keep my dog on leash when no one else does?). The whole question of “the best way to keep people in the backcountry from doing bad things) sounds like a great place for social science research. If anyone has any cites, please put in the comments below.

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