By the Herald editorial staff
Just when it looked like Juniper Dunes was finally getting services needed to match its rising popularity, the plans were scrapped.
The proposal wasn't elaborate -- not enough to break the federal bank any further than it already is broken.
A couple of vault toilets, picnic tables, grills, trash cans and shelters -- standard campground and park stuff that you'd expect at a popular off-road vehicle park.
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The toilets were to be installed first, with the rest of the amenities contingent on the decades-old access issue being resolved.
While we won't hold our breath waiting for a permanent public access road, toilets seemed like a good first step to address the area's needs.
With 20,000 visitors to Juniper Dunes last fiscal year, some of them were bound to need a bathroom. We're certain of it.
With 19,000 acres to choose from, the federal Bureau of Land Management narrowed down the potential site for toilets to two locations on 8,600 acres.
But both sites are apparently flawed beyond compromise, so the toilet plan has been scrapped.
In the 8,600 acres designed for road and trail traffic, or even the smaller 3,000 acres designated for ORVs, there's not one suitable spot for an outhouse?
The soil at alternate site No. 1 was too sandy to support the vault toilet. Site No. 2 was in habitat preferred by a threatened species of bird, the ferruginous hawk.
So sand -- a shocking find in Eastern Washington -- and hawks killed the plan for toilets.
And people will be left to do what they have done for decades -- squat behind a piece of sagebrush and kick some sand over what is left behind.
It seems like the hawks would be better off if human wastes were confined to a pit instead of scattered throughout the dunes.
So would the people.
ORV-friendly areas are harder and harder to come by and most of these folks want to respect the rules and the land when given a chance to keep their right to ride intact.
But the federal government won't even give them the chance. What a shame and what a mess.
We've repeatedly called on the federal government to fix the situation at Juniper Dunes. It's a magnet for all kinds of nature lovers as well as off-roaders.
Horseback riders, hikers, bird watchers and the like all have a stake in the vast wilderness area.
But despite lots of lip service, the federal government has been unwilling and unable to find a way to provide a service to the people using these public lands and protect the ground and its inhabitants at the same time.
The fact that the BLM couldn't find a place for two toilets on 19,000 acres is just the latest example in the debacle.