Research on visitor knowledge, attitude, and practices toward discarded used toilet paper (DUTP) in designated Wilderness areas is non-existent. Given the recent visitor increases to US public lands during Covid 19, with Wilderness and dispersed areas seeing the most increase (USFS, May 2021), addressing this gap has become increasingly relevant and timely. During the summer of 2021, I conducted visitor exit surveys at six trailheads in four Wildernesses in three western US states along with GPS data collection at associated campsites.
This novel research shows all surveyed hikers negatively associate to seeing DUTP, 73% (n=111) of respondents stated they saw no information about toilet paper, and 80% of respondents (n=89) have a stated tolerance levels for not returning to an area of 3 or less incidences yet average incidences of DUTP across all surveyed sites is 4.1 (SD=4.8).
Solutions identified through this research suggest Wilderness policy on packing out used toilet paper needs to be more readily accessible for the hiking public and that visitor tolerances have already been breached. These results will enable land managers to develop targeted strategies associated with discarded used toilet paper, and trash in general, to assist in desired visitor behavioral changes.