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SALT LAKE CITY — A national threat to wildlife is being eased somewhat, thanks to an innovative effort dubbed the "Poo-Poo Project," which prevents cavity-nesting birds from entering vault toilet ventilation pipes and becoming trapped.
Employees with the U.S. Forest Service will install 350 of the "poo-poo screens" on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache and Dixie National Forests.
The Forest Service says that each year, thousands of cavity-nesters, animals that prefer dark, narrow spaces for nesting and roosting, become trapped in vertical open pipes such as ventilation pipes, claim stakes and chimneys.
Vault toilets, the self-contained restrooms found in many of America’s wild areas, feature vertical ventilation pipes that mimic the natural cavities preferred by various bird species for nesting and roosting.
The screens first came about in a pilot project carried out by the Teton Raptor Center in Wyoming after employees saw a photo of an owl trapped in a vault toilet in 2010.
They purchased 100 screens in a community supported project and installed them on public lands in Teton County. The center ultimately developed its own screen, cutting the cost by 70 percent and increasing their accessibility.
"We are proud of the success of the Poo-Poo Project, made possible through our many partnerships with public lands managers, volunteers and conservationists. The USDA Forest Service is our largest Poo-Poo Project partner in the country which, includes 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands. The agency has installed over 7,000 poo-poo screens to prevent accidental bird entrapment in vault toilets”, said David Watson, Teton Raptor Center’s Poo-Poo Project coordinator.
The Forest Service's largest purchase was the 800 screens that were distributed to eight national forests in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Colorado in a launch of the project in 2013.
“While we’ve hit the 12,000-mark for poo-poo screens sold, we know there’s so much work left to do to elevate awareness and understanding of the hazards of open pipes on both public and private lands,” Watson said.