St. Anthony Sand Dunes need to be protected and visitors need to follow the rules.
The Saint Anthony Sand Dunes can be a popular spot for local residents and college students alike.
Madi Thomas, a junior studying childhood development, loves bonfires. She and her friends have gone to the sand dunes many times for enjoying different activities.
“I love going out to the dunes just to hang out,” Thomas said. “It’s super amazing. We bring blankets, music, snacks, and we all just hang out and look at the stars and talk about life and share secrets. It is always super healing and I really bond with my friends. Bonfires are my absolute favorite, I can’t imagine not being able to do them.”
The sand dunes offer activities such as bonfires, sledding and ATV roaming. However, it has become a real concern of how the land is being treated due to improper use with such activities.
The Bureau of Land Management Upper Snake Field Office has expressed concern about the negligence of the land.
This upcoming year, a statewide regulation will be enforced, which prohibits the burning of anything other than firewood. Failure to follow will result in a $130 citation.
Jeff Roberts, a law enforcement ranger for the Pocatello and Upper Snake Field Office, said he recommends only using actual firewood or fuel wood.
“The nails get buried, and we have children that play in the sand barefooted and step on the nails,” Roberts said. “We have off-highway vehicles run over the nails and pop tires. If they are going fast enough, that can cause an accident.”
The BLM encourages bonfires but is against the burning of wood pallets. Dune cleanups have revealed thousands of nails that are buried in the sand.
Rayna Webb, a sophomore studying biology, said she understands the dangers of using pallets. She said she loves bonfires in the dunes, but she does not love how some people disregard the rules.
“I think it’s important to try to protect nature,” Webb said. “I totally understand not allowing pallets. They make such a mess and there are so many nails left after and that’s just a huge inconvenience; not to mention dangerous if there’s a lot of people that go there. I love this beautiful area up in Montana, and I hate when people are constantly up there leaving stuff around. I’m totally for having fires and stuff, but you gotta keep it nice.”
Roberts said he has seen golf balls, paper lanterns, railroad ties, tires, furniture and electronics used as fire sources. Many of these things are treated and create toxic fumes when burned.
When putting out fires, smokeybear.com recommends waiting until the wood has burned all the way to ash. Drown the embers in water until the fire does not hiss. If there is not enough water, stir sand into the embers. Continue mixing in water or sand until the area is cool. If it is too hot to touch, the fire cannot be left.
Jeremy Casterson, a field manager for the Upper Snake Field Office, wants to remind all visitors that the sand dunes are not dumping lands.
“The sand creek desert actually is one of the most important big game winter ranges in Idaho,” Casterson said. “There are a lot of deer and actually moose out in this desert — sage grouse, which is a species of interest — We need to make sure we can protect that by making sure that vehicles stay on the existing roads. Pick up your trash, and be respectful, as leaving no trace is really big.”
Large groups are also an issue in the dunes. Without permits, large crowds can damage the land and cause many issues to arise.
TAYLOR FITZGERALD | Scroll Illustration
Jason Byrd, an outdoor recreation planner for the Upper Snake Field Office, said it is fairly easy to acquire a permit. He said even if you are unsure or an activity might not require a permit, always call to check.
“A special recreation permit is needed any time you are doing a larger event,” Byrd said. “The permits are really only needed to protect resources and protect public safety.”
Byrd said large events should be called in at least 180 days in advance. This is to allow the BLM to conduct land surveys, wildlife studies, increase staff or law enforcement. The BLM does not want to discourage anyone from enjoying the land. They said they just want the land and the people to stay safe.
To call with questions, concerns or reservations, the Upper Snake Field Office can be reached at (208) 678-0461. The office is also located at 1405 Hollipark Dr. Idaho Falls, Idaho 83401.
For recreational questions or reservations, information can be found at idahodunesrv.com.
“Pick up your trash, and be respectful, as leaving no trace is really big.”- Jeremy Casterson, Field manager for the upper snake field office