A classic G. George Ostrom column from 2012.
More people are now adventuring into Montana’s wilderness, so more people are “going” in the wilderness. Talked to Spotted Bear Ranger Deb Mucklow this week to check on current status.
She says there are pit toilets in a few administrative areas, such as Black Bear and Salmon Forks, though Flathead County regulations do not approve; however, vault toilets are not practical in backcountry.
Licensed outfitters bury human waste, and the Forest Service will loan out “scoops” so others may do the same.
Mucklow says most visitors cooperate quite well, with few littering citations issued. Fines up to $200 can be levied, but catching violators is very difficult. Commercial rafting companies on the Middle and North Forks use porta-potties. We are writing on this subject because… somebody has to do it.
In August of 1984, this columnist had a thorough review of what was then referred to as a public “tissue issue.” We said
this: Some people may turn up their noses at this week’s subject, but thoughtful media should pressure the U.S. government into making intelligent decisions about going potty in the federal bushes. This isn’t the kind of thing feds can continue sweeping under natural rugs. Short years back, I was on a pack trip through the Bob Marshall and didn’t hit a
popular camping meadow until nearly dark. After supper, I took a flashlight and walked into the trees. Shining the beam around produced shock.
Looked like an Alabama cotton patch with toilet paper on, under and in every bush and log in sight. My retreat compared to tiptoeing back through a minefield.
A recent forest fire in Washington State was caused by a conscientious person attempting to burn his toilet paper.
We’ve got to wipe out this threat to our pristine wilderness areas.
There are powerful folks in the Forest Service bureaucracy who believe building outhouses in primitive areas “detracts from the visitor’s wilderness experience.” Well now, really.
I suppose they think six acres of toilet paper and what goes with it is a rare and sensual delight.
These ninnies are violating our constipational
rights. Just read a letter to the editor from a fella who was givin’ hell to “purists” who would rather “moon the lodgepoles” than use a discreetly located outhouse.
I feel that writer is representative of the intelligent backcountry users.
It is folks like him who will lead future movements.
In 1970, I floated the Rogue River and discovered this first addition to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System offered shiny blue plastic toilets with white tops, right on the banks
at scenic turns. That kind of restroom is not what “goers” have in mind. My published magazine story got Sen. Lee Metcalf’s attention, and the BLM’s glowing Rogue River toilets disappeared.
The National Park Service built the “million dollar toilet” on Logan Pass, then, with faces flushed, announced a management plan for this “visitor’s center.” Waste from johns is hauled out of the Park to a treatment center. Some say this is carrying things too far.
Also, there is a Glacier Park regulation about only going potty in “authorized areas.” It isn’t highly publicized because, compared to the grizzly bear thing, toilet-training tourists is still just a wee-wee problem, and trying to enforce it could turn out to be a really big job.
With serious consideration for squatters’ rights as well as for aesthetics, I think the appointed trustees of our public lands should bury past mistakes and come up with the obvious solution. I and most my fellow taxpaying wilderness walkers feel this is one government project where we would approve “going in the hole.”