Poplar Bluff Ranger District (PBRD) employees have made a considerable effort over the last few years to get literal tons of dumped tires off the forest, in order to create a more positive experience for everyone that visits this public land.

These Mark Twain National Forest employees held three separate tire clean-ups with a total of 705 tires removed. The average passenger car tire weighs about 20 pounds, light truck tires weigh around 35 pounds, and semi-truck tires weigh more than 100 pounds. At a minimum (if these had only been car tires) the 705 that were collected would weigh in at 14,000 pounds….not counting the mud and water and other trash with which many were probably filled.

These tires had been discarded in various locations across PBRD over many years due to people not wanting to pay the tire disposal fee when they purchased new tires. The dumped tires had begun accumulating at an alarming rate over the past decade. This was beginning to make some of the Forest Service roads look very unsightly to visitors and was beginning to invite more illegal dumping. Starting in 2018, though, PBRD employees decided to do something about it. Another boost to the effort came from Simmons Tire and Auto, a local business that stepped up to the plate to offer the Forest Service tire disposal at industry cost—saving the Forest Service, and thereby the taxpayers, thousands of dollars.

District Ranger Jon Stansfield wants to thank his employees for making this happen.  Stansfield stated, “I want to give a shout out of appreciation to Simmons Tire and Auto and to all the employees that have helped over the past couple years, including Frank Spencer, Jeremy Reynolds, Mike Stevens, Danny Olivas, Justin Hill, Aaron Moore, Amy Gallamore, Mike Pomeroy, Amy Duff, Connor Erickson, Dan Rael, Zach Saiz, Sueanne Cmehil-Warn, Noel Ellerbe, and Nathan Patterson—great job everyone!”

Trash dumps left to sit on the forest can have some serious negative effects. If left alone, they would likely continue to grow in size and quantity, increasing future costs for removal. Trash dumps also have the potential to release harmful contaminants into the environment.

“We really took these clean-ups seriously because we don’t want visitors to have a negative perception when they use their public lands,” stated Nathan Patterson, a forestry technician on PBRD.

The removal of trash dumps enhances the forest's visual quality and scenic beauty, improves visitor safety, and reduces negative environmental impacts from potentially hazardous materials.

Trash dumps are potential sources of pollutants, which can then be spread in the surface runoff and even in the groundwater. Removing dumped items like tires is very important to water quality. Employees also wanted to send a message that dumping tires is not okay.

Patterson continued, “I hope that as we continue these organized efforts, the public will begin to notice the work that is being done to make their experience on their public lands more enjoyable; and maybe they can help us educate others as to why people should not be dumping tires on the national forest.”

Although PBRD employees take a personal responsibility in removing trash from the national forest service lands, which they have the privilege to help manage, they take risks when doing so. Trash dumps have the potential to be hazardous in many ways, including hiding snakes and dangerous objects like discarded needles, and can cause cuts from sharp objects, lifting injuries, and exposure to other biological or chemical hazardous materials. Ideally, people would dispose of their trash appropriately without dumping on the land that belongs to everyone.