By Annette Jenkins
Imagine floating down Jack’s Fork River. The cool water laps at your feet as you hang them out of your canoe, the warm sun overhead. Your cooler overflows with ice and cans of cold Mountain Dew. As you dig through the empty cans to find a full one, the breeze catches one and it’s tossed into the river, quickly filling with water and sinking. You can’t retrieve it. “It’s just one pop can.” But it can do more damage than you think.
Rebecca Landewe of The Nature Conservancy describes links between small things we don’t realize actually have a huge impact on the integrity and health of this river. Human litter and waste create bigger problems down the line than we can imagine.
More than one million visitors come to Jack’s Fork to float every summer. If one can is dropped for every five people, imagine the amount of trash swallowed-but not digested-by this pristine area.
Even something as small as using the woods as an outhouse during a long float trip can affect the health of the river, Landawe said. She described how human defecation adds nutrients to the water. “Algae feed on those nutrients, then suck oxygen out of the water. Other fish and wildlife need that oxygen,” Landawe said.
Landewe is working with the Department of Parks and Recreation to help educate the public on the treatment of the water in the popular floating season. She wishes people were more responsible when it came to keeping it a place everyone will want to visit, Landawe said.