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Southern Utah group toils to clean up canyons

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CEDAR CITY (AP) — Underwear, construction debris, a washing machine — Carin Miller and her many volunteers have picked them up and much more while cleaning canyons in southern Utah.

"If you can think it, we've cleaned it up," said Miller of Cedar City, who tries to get out at least twice a month to check areas in Iron and Washington counties.

She is president of Clean Our Canyons, a group she started to raise awareness about beautiful canyons being turned into open dumps.

Besides speaking to community groups and schools about the problem, Miller gets help from public employees in Iron County and Cedar City and staffers at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Since April, Miller and her volunteers have regularly filled 60-gallon trash bags and a truck with junk. Bed springs, refrigerators and recliners are commonly dumped in canyons instead of being taken to landfills.

On a trip last week to BLM land, west of Bloomington in Washington County, Miller's troops included eight students from the Red Rock Canyon School, a rehabilitation school in St. George.

"This is an alien environment for a lot of our students who come from out of state," said Barry Moore, a school official. "She (Miller) provides them an opportunity to help the community, and get kids out into the desert." While handing out large orange bags and latex gloves, Miller gave students instructions on what to avoid: broken glass, needles, hazardous chemicals.

"Go for the big, visual pieces, not things like cigarette butts," she told the teens. "Anything that could hurt you or are natural or biodegradable, like a carcass, just leave."

Celina Prim, a student from Sacramento, Calif., said it was terrible that people would litter the landscape.

"I just can't understand it," she said. At the end of the outing, the students had filled 29 of the 60-gallon bags.

"They worked together as one team. They had a blast," Miller said.