Why do we venture into Nature? Why do we visit or explore the places we do? Sometimes it’s because of the absolute beauty, perhaps to see and experience something unique or maybe it’s to just get away from it all. Imagine if there were a few principles or guidelines we could all adhere to that helps keep and protect the Outdoors. A few principles that keep the environments we so love the way we imagine them to be and possibly even improve their current condition. Fortunately for us, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has already developed 7 principles that “teach people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.” They are…
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
Plan on ways to reduce your impact on the environment you are going to visit. This may include anything from the type of gear that you use to the trash you generate. If your backpacking into a region that does not have designated campsites, something like planning “how am I going to prepare my food” can have a huge impact. A small portable stove will leave less of a mark on the landscape when compared to having to make a small fire ring to contain a campfire.
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
According to the National Park Service website the “total recreation visitors to the National Parks in 2011: was 278,939,216.” Imagine if even a fraction of those visitors decided to wander from already established trails or camp in virgin areas. The impact from those actions would be huge. Pretty much everything you do in the wilderness has the possibility to affect the natural surroundings so we really need to be considerate and smart about where we step, sit or camp.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
This means if you pack it in, you pack it out. Pretty simple…We go to many of the locations because of their pristine natural beauty. and nothing can be more frustrating or upsetting than getting there and finding trash or remnants from someone else s trip. There are some things that you probably won’t pack out though. Human or pet waste. What you really need to do is learn the responsible way and location to dispose of these messes. There are numerous articles or videos on this so if your unsure, read or watch so you will know and you can act accordingly.
4. Leave What You Find
If you find something that you think is cool or interesting, chances are someone else will find the same things. Imagine if the person before you decided that this was a really cool ____ and they decided to take the ____ home with them. You would never have had the opportunity to experience it for yourself. I know there are so many cool and amazing things in this world, but the only thing you should take from your trip is your photos and the fantastic memories.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
I know how cool campfires can be, but campfires can be messy and leave a visible scar on the landscape for a very long time. I learned a long time ago, how cool being out in nature without a campfire is. I remember one particular trip with a bunch of friends from college, where it took me at least 20 min to convince them to give the no campfire route a shot. It really is amazing how well the human eye can adapt to low light conditions, and how well you can see. Everyone found how much better they could see the stars and each other without a campfire. After the first night, it was so successful that we actually had no campfire nights for the remaining 3 nights. If you’ve never tried it, give it a shot…you might just be a convert.
6. Respect Wildlife
One of the biggest things to remember here is that when you go out into nature, you are going into the home of the wildlife that surround you. Give them their space…not your food. A huge part of respecting wildlife is not feeding them. It’s so easy for animals to associate people with easy food and become very trusting…sometimes to their demise. If a wild animal becomes dependent upon people for food they can forget how to forage or find it for themselves. Often times in the case of Bears, they get so used to associating people with food that they become unafraid of people and will break into coolers or vehicles to get it. This sometimes can lead to violent confrontations and the park officials may have to take the Bears life. This is a very drastic example, but really something as simple as storing food properly in bear boxes or canisters can prevent these incidents.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
When I’m hiking with my girls, we sometimes just have to let out a Sasquatch call or two, but we are always respectful to not make a lot of noise or try to give other groups of people the opportunity to enjoy themselves and have their own experience. If we hear people coming up on us we may stop and sit for a few minutes to rest and give them a little space. Many times the whole reason we go out is to get away from it all, so if you’d like to be left alone, do the same for others. This being said, there are many times I will ask a group of people if they would like me to take a photo, or help/ ask for directions, etc. If your polite and respectful this will of course be well received. I do find people that I meet hiking to be the most friendly and courteous people. Be one of them!
The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy and treat the outdoors responsibly. If we all follow these 7 principles when we go out into nature, we will be able to leave an outdoor environment for future generations to experience and enjoy and that’s a legacy I’d like to leave.
To find out more about the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics organization or to become a member…
This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics