It’s a scene nobody recreating on public lands across Colorado wants to run into: an abandoned campsite full of trash and, worst of all, human waste.
The slogans “Leave No Trace,” and “Pack It In, Pack It Out,” have been uttered countless times across all types of recreation groups. Yet every year, organizations across Colorado partner together to pick up trash and clean up public lands left littered.
And for one organization, the removal of makeshift toilets from hunting camps has become far too regular of an occurrence.
“We get a lot of stuff out of the backcountry – human waste, dog waste, lots of toilet paper, micro and macro trash and lots of leftover camping gear,” said David Ochs, Executive Director of the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association, which operates the Crested Butte Conservation Corps (CBCC) as its trail care and stewardship team. “Sometimes we need to really tend to the ‘waste’ of it all – not fun, but we have some stellar crews committed to the ‘duty.’”
Ochs said his stewardship crew collects an average of 1,138 pounds of trash each year since its formation in 2017. In 2023, the team has already moved 1,177 pounds of trash, evidence the problem is growing.
Of that, Ochs said the group has decommissioned 88 illegal fire rings and collected 54 human waste piles. They average around three cleanups of makeshift toilets left in the wilderness each year.
“It’s amazing the extent to which some people go to create luxury and creature comforts deep in the backcountry,” Ochs said. “But it’s a shame that some have no remorse in leaving it behind.
“What gets us is the extent to which some users really go out of their way to do the right thing and then the amount of users who completely neglect or are naive to basic backcountry etiquette. Not all of it is malicious, oftentimes it’s truly ignorance. But the toilet problem is an ugly one in that users go out of their way to plan and make this device, then have no remorse in leaving it behind, often in truly glorious backcountry settings.”
CPW Area Wildlife Manager Brandon Diamond thanked Ochs and the CBCC team for the work they’ve done and challenged hunters to leave no toilets behind this season.
“As hunters, we have the special opportunity and privilege of enjoying our public lands and wildlife resources,” Diamond said. “We should set the standard in terms of land stewardship, and provide an example to public land users on how to keep a clean camp and responsibly recreate.”
“I definitely want to thank the CBCC folks who are out doing tremendous community service. But at the end of the day, they shouldn’t have to clean up after hunters. Hunters need to do their part.”
There are several portable toilet products on the market with many specifically branded toward hunters. Using and cleaning a “groover” toilet is simple, and many towns across Colorado have services affiliated with businesses that will clean a portable toilet for a fee.
The W.A.G. Bag
For those not interested in a portable toilet option, there’s another solution.
“At the very least, everyone can use a wag bag and pack them out with them,” said CPW Senior Wildlife Biologist Jamin Grigg.
Ochs said his team is proud to clean up their backyard and take pride in maintaining roughly 70 miles of trail and open space per year.
“We need to continue to educate all visitors and users,” he said. “Hikers, bikers, hunters, anglers, motos, runners, birders and flower junkies – pros and newbies – we all make an impact, but we’re obligated to leave no trace.”
Written by John Livingston. John is the Southwest region public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.