Scoutmaster Musings - Reusing Cat Holes


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Scoutmaster Musings

Reusing Cat Holes
You can ask my neighbors and they'll tell you I've just about always got some silly experiment going on in my yard. For example, last summer I left a 10x10 square of grass unmowed all summer to see how it would reseed. This summer, I pulled weeds by hand except for one area that I sprayed. So, I'm just interested in finding out how well things really work.

The principles of Leave No Trace attempt to minimize our impact when we're exploring the outdoors. Most of them are obviously helpful and don't require much effort in convincing people that they are a good idea.
But, I've been interested in how well cat holes really work for disposing of human waste. The concept is that you dig a 6 inch hole in organic soil (not sand or mineral soil), deposit your waste, cover it back up, and then it quickly decomposes. So, I wondered if this really works or if we're just burying our waste so it's out of sight.
The past three years, I've backpacked in an area of Wyoming, with a church group and our scout troop. We've camped a night in the same general area each trip so I've had an opportunity to see catholes in action. I found a secluded spot that was very far from camp, minimizing the probability of anyone else walking that far to use it. After digging and using the cathole, I marked it with a stick.
The next year, I found the spot. The sparse ground cover looked healthy and the hole was unidentifiable except for the stick. I dug it up and there was no visible trace of waste or toilet paper.
So, I used the hole again, covered it up, and marked it. The third year, I found it again and it was still unrecognizable except for the stick. I couldn't see any reduction in the vegetation and the waste had 'vanished'.
From this simple experiment, I'm much more confident that by using catholes my impact is really reduced. I believe it is important to find good locations for catholes (in organic duff by trees or bushes), use minimal toilet paper, and carefully replace the ground cover when finished.

As your scout troop explores the outdoors, taking responsibility for their impact falls under the Outdoor Code as well as the Scout Law. They need to be trained in Leave No Trace ethics so they understand and adopt the need to minimize their impact. The Leave No Trace award is a great way to learn, practice, and embrace the LNT principles.

Scout On
Posted: 8:52 08-19-2007 168
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