“Leave No Trace” is an admirable goal when camping, especially in our national parks and national forests. But last year in New Mexico, El Pasoan Rodrigo Ulloa-Esquivel’s effort to do so backfired just a bit too literally.
This week, as the Associated Press reported, the thirty-year-old was ordered to pay $2.7 million in restitution for starting a 53,000-acre wildfire Lincoln National Forest. And all because he was not only considerate enough to wipe, but also tried to practice proper camping etiquette.
As the AP wrote:
The April 2011 fire started when Ulloa-Esquivel lit toilet paper on fire after relieving himself so he would not leave litter behind. High winds sent sparks into nearby brush, and he and his friends were unable to control the fire.
Jim Kalvelage of the Ruidoso News reported that Ulloa-Esquivel was originally indicted for setting fire to public lands, leaving a fire unattended and making false statements to investigators. He pleaded guilty to the second charge in a deal that also got him sentenced to two hundred hours community service and five years probation.
According to Kalvelage, the National Forest’s Sitting Bull Falls Day Use Area has been closed for the past twelve months. It reopens tomorrow, but its trails remain shut down to “avert further damage to the resources.”
Next time, Ulloa-Esquivel will have to be more mindful of the maxim that goes hand-in-hand with “leave no trace,” unappealing as it sometimes is: “pack in what you pack out.”