MISSOULA, Mont. — More and more refrigerators and big pieces of garbage are polluting Deer Creek, Pattee Canyon and other protected lands around Missoula.
Hikers started a new grassroots group called Woods Not Waste to haul huge pieces of garbage out of those areas.
"Last year we went up the back side of Pattee Canyon, there's a two mile stretch there. we got about 3,600 pounds of trash out of there, everything from washers to bedroom sets," Luke Jovin said. "We got 17 tires out of the side of the road. It's one thing to find things on the side of the road, but it's another when you go 20 miles back on a hike and find a refrigerator."
Some of the garbage items have been left in areas that are difficult to access.
"The ones that are really far back are the ones that surprise me," Cassia Spurlock said. "You'll hike two miles back, and there will be a bed. You think, somebody hiked in a mattress two miles just to dump it here."
Landfill fees might play a part in the issue.
"What happens a portion of the time is they will even load up whatever they intend to throw away. They'll go through the dump and when they weigh the vehicle, the person realizes it's going to cost $40 to $50 to throw away that mattress. Then, to them, it's just not worth the cost. So, they'll just drive it up to the woods somewhere and pitch it out the back. "
Some polluters are throwing the big items over deep ravines.
"We'll just tie some ropes to our waist and jump down and go get it," Jovin said. "We'll rapel down. So, we've been able to get a lot of that stuff off the sides. People try to be sneaky about it, but they're not so sneaky about it."
The group formed because it can skirt a lot of red tape and quickly get the garbage out of the public lands, but it is now also focusing on being a resource to help people use the landfill in the first place.
For more information visit the group's website.