Throughout the past few weeks of the government shutdown, our National Parks have been left to the good graces of their visitors. Unfortunately, we’ve had many reports of overflowing trash bins, toxic bathrooms, and, most egregious of all, the destruction of the land and resources themselves.
In hindsight of such news, it has become even more important to spread the ideals of Leave No Trace.
Leave No Trace is a national center for outdoor ethics that teaches individuals how to enjoy the outdoors in responsible and sustainable ways. Much of their work is founded in the following 7 principles:
Be PREPARED! Don’t forget clothes to protect you from the elements, maps to show you the way, and knowledge about the area you’re visiting. Try reading books or talking to others before you go.
Stay on the MAIN TRAIL and don’t wander off by yourself. Make sure to avoid damaging flowers or small trees as they may not recover. Use existing camp areas – ones that are at least 100 wide steps from roads, trails, or water sources.
If you pack it in, PACK IT OUT. Ensure that you’re carrying all litter (including crumbs) home. Use bathrooms or outhouses whenever they’re available; when this isn’t possible use a cat hole to bury bathroom waste between 4 and 8 inches deep. Store the toilet paper in a plastic ziplock bag and throw it away in a garbage can.
Also, take care around water sources. To keep water clean avoid contaminating it with soap, food, or human waste.
DO NOT take plants, rocks, leaves, or historical items so that the next visitor may enjoy them. Pulling or chopping at leaves and branches can kill plants; please treat them with respect.
When looking for a place to camp remember that good campsites are FOUND, NOT MADE. Refrain from digging trenches or building structures around your campsite.
Use a camp stove for cooking. This will make it both easier to cook on and clean up when you’re done. If you do start a campfire be sure it is permitted in the area you’re visiting and always use an existing fire ring.
When building a campfire make sure to use sticks from the ground rather than breaking branches from trees and always make sure the fire is DEAD OUT before you leave.
Observe animals from a distance and make sure to NEVER APPROACH, FEED, OR FOLLOW them. Human food is unhealthy and can even be harmful to wildlife. Protect these animals by storing your food and trash properly. If you can not control pets they’re better left at home.
Have respect for others that are out enjoying nature as well. Remember that every visitor has a right to enjoy the outdoors.
Listen to nature rather than playing music, making loud noises, or yelling. (Besides, you’ll see more animals if you are quiet!)
Thank you for reading! If you’d like to find out more about Leave No Trace Ethics please follow the link in the resources listed below.
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