Shifting sands expose dangers of illegal pallet burning

Nails are found in the sand at the St. Anthony Sand Dunes. Courtesy BLM

REXBURG — As Bureau of Land Management Recreation Planner Ben Cisna headed out to begin seasonal preparations for the St. Anthony Sand Dunes, he didn’t expect to spend his entire day trying to remove thousands of sharp nails protruding from the sand.

“I pulled up to the area to complete some sign maintenance and I noticed thousands of dark lines in the sand,” Cisna said. “I didn’t know what it was at first, but as I got closer I realized it was nails.”

Shifting sands and melting snow exposed a harsh reality: the remnants of pallet burning and other illegal activities on the dunes.

Cisna spent the day sifting through the sand, collecting the debris. He was able to cover approximately one-fourth of an acre and collect 60 pounds of nails, but will resume cleaning at a later date.

Bonfires and parties — which don’t pose a safety risk if people follow the rules and clean up their mess — continue to take place in the area. Nails and other construction debris left behind from months of illegal pallet burning have created significant dangers to those recreating on the sand dunes off Red Road.

“A small child playing on the dunes could easily fall or step on one of these nails,” said Jeremy Casterson, BLM Upper Snake Field Manager. “We do our best to keep the area clean, but it’s impossible for our staff to comb over every acre of the dunes trying to remove nails.”

Campfires are allowed in a designated section off Red Road, though not on the open dunes. Pallet burning, however, is prohibited. While BLM and Brigham Young University-Idaho work together to educate students on appropriate behaviors on public land, it is clear that the message is not reaching everyone.

The Upper Snake Field Office is urging students and others who might be involved in illegal pallet burning to stop. Lack of compliance means BLM will need to increase its law enforcement efforts and ticket those violating the rules.

For more information about the St. Anthony Sand Dunes or about appropriate campfire materials, contact the Upper Snake Field Office at 208-524-7500.