A Mountain of Trash [Photo Essay]

A Mountain of Trash [Photo Essay]

ROCK SPRINGS — Matt Hanson runs on White Mountain every morning. Hanson competes regularly in endurance and obstacle races and the mountain makes for a great training ground.

Unfortunately, one of the main obstacles Hanson encounters on White Mountain is garbage. If you’re out on the mountain recreating, the trash is hard to avoid. Piles of random junk, discarded furniture, appliances and random litter of all sorts are easy to find. All the photos in this story are from a short hike that covered less than a mile.

A substantial source of litter on the mountain seems to be target shooting. Uncollected shells and casings are found everywhere. Many dumped items are filled with bullet holes.

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There’s no shortage of broken glass either. “My dog even cut his pad on a piece of glass and I had to keep him off the mountain for two weeks,” Hanson said. It’s hard to see how any dogs run around on White Mountain without cutting their paws on glass or rusty metal.

NOT A NEW PROBLEM

Dozens of community members participated in a clean up around White Mountain in 2016 that resulted in removing three dump-truck loads of trash. Coordinated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Rack Springs Chamber of Commerce, that National Public Lands Day Event also involved installing signs warning of penalties for illegal trash dumping.

One of the signs that were installed in 2016.

Still, illegal dumping on and around White Mountain seems to persist at a noticeable rate. “I totally agree with the idea that it still exists,” Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo said. “I see it all the time. I’m out in the hills all the time and I make it a routine to contact the RSPD or the county to go out and try to investigate and try to track these folks down.” While it’s not always possible, tips to law enforcement do sometimes lead to charges in illegal dumping cases.

Nikki Maxwell of the BLM Rock Springs Field Office said the agency does whatever they can to combat trash dumping. “BLM has Zero Tolerance for dumping on Public Land. We share information with local and state law enforcement. They can issue citations, as can the BLM if it occurs on BLM administered lands,” Maxwell said in an email.

Nonetheless, enforcement in an area like White Mountain, a patchwork of public and private ownership and administration, can be tricky. “Much of the land at the base of the mountain is private and not managed by BLM,” Maxwell said.

Likewise, Mayor Kaumo also pointed to challenges in monitoring open space areas but said that shouldn’t discourage citizens from trying to combat dumping. “The places out around White Mountain are outside of our corporate city limits, but we team up with the county and at any time whatsoever if people find those items or those piles of trash they simply just need to call the sheriff’s office or the PD. They’ll go out and try to investigate.” Kaumo said.

Some of the more unappetizing findings.
One drainage near White Mountain Road appears to be a preferred dumpsite for animal remains and alcohol containers.

NO NEED FOR IT

Perhaps the most baffling thing about the trash on White Mountain is that disposing of it properly would be easier. It takes less effort to take items to the county landfill. “We have a great facility out there and it doesn’t cost anything to take your trash out there. Yet, people will go to the effort to run out to the hills with a truck-load of stuff and dump it in a ditch and then we have to deal with it,” Kaumo said.

Some of the garbage, like abandoned target shooting items, just comes down to people using open spaces and not cleaning up after themselves. “We always hope that people do the right thing. However, there are are still some people who decide not to follow the law,” Maxwell said.

“It’s sad to say because we have a landfill that’s basically free. You can take stuff out there and dispose of it properly, but some people are lazy and it’s disheartening and it puts a black mark on who we are as a community,” Kaumo said.

Mountain Dew appears to be the dumper’s beverage of choice.
What looks like a small memorial at the base of a Sagebrush plant. You never have to look far for shells that weren’t picked up.