Get Outdoors! But, Leave No Trace!

Though the pandemic we are living through has created many challenges for people, there have been some positive consequences! One positive result is the increased interest of individuals and families in participating in outdoor recreation activities and enjoying natural lands and trail systems. While it’s always a good choice to head outdoors, if you’re going to explore, hike, camp, run, or bike, don’t forget to follow basic rules for outdoor stewardship!

According to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, there are Seven Principles individuals are asked to follow, when they visit the outdoors and trail systems, in order to sustain healthy and vibrant natural lands. These Principles have been modified to include standards to be used in backyards, local parks, or wilderness areas.

Plan ahead and prepare.

Planning helps to ensure trip goals are achieved in a safe and enjoyable manner. It also encourages individuals to learn more about the area they will be visiting, which can minimize resource damage caused by visitors. Remember to organize your activities to fit your skills and abilities.

Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

Land management agencies and organizations build trails to provide multi-use accessible routes for pedestrian travel through natural lands, and well-designed paths encourage visitors to stay on the trails. If it is necessary to venture off trail, (e.g., to explore an area for an overnight campsite) look for durable surfaces, such as rock, sand, and gravel. These conditions are resilient to frequent use by visitors. Consider naturalizing the site after breaking camp by using materials, like pine needles or leaves, to cover footprints or matted areas.

Dispose of waste properly.    

Natural land visitors should plan to bring out what they bring in (e.g., water bottles, food wrappers). To dispose of human waste and toiletries, follow guidelines for constructing cat holes or latrines or carry out waste in plastic bags. Proper disposal of human waste is important to avoid polluting water sources and to prevent spreading disease.

Leave what you find.

Areas should be left as you found them, do not dig holes or clear areas. If you do, be sure to replace items (e.g., leaves, sticks, rocks) before leaving. Avoid cutting into or hanging items from trees.

Minimize campfire impacts.

If it’s necessary to build a fire, be sure to do so in a manner in which you leave no evidence of a fire having been constructed by keeping the fire small and allowing the wood to burn completely to ash. Other options to the traditional campfire include constructing a Mound fire or a Fire pan (visit this website for how-to instructions https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/minimize-campfire-impacts/). An alternative to building a campfire is to pack in a lightweight efficient camp stove. In some instances, visitors may camp in an area where a fire ring already exists; if so, be sure to use the existing fire ring.

Respect wildlife.

Learn about wildlife through observation from a distance – do not disturb, touch, chase, or feed wildlife or make quick movements or loud noises. However, if you are traveling in an area where there are bears, a little noise is a good idea. Remember to allow animals access to their water sources.

Be considerate of other visitors.

To ensure everyone enjoys their outdoor experience, be courteous and considerate toward other visitors you encounter. Before passing others on the trail, announce your presence and proceed with caution. On a narrow path, downhill hikers should yield to uphill hikers; hikers defer to equestrians; bicyclists yield to both hikers and equestrians.  Be sure you know the rules regarding pets, and keep pets under control at all times.

References

Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. (2020, June 23). The 7 principles. Retrieved from https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/

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