Now that we’re able to get outside more and explore our backyards, local trails and wilderness, we must make it our responsibility to leave our surroundings better than we found them. All our favorite wild places have had a break from human traffic in the past few months that has created unintended positive impacts, such as wildlife resurgence, cleaner air, and clearer water. As we ease back into getting outdoors, let’s make it our goal to keep them as clean as possible.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Planning ahead allows you to ensure your group’s safety and minimize your footprint, which is especially important during these times. Bring your own gear and supplies from home, avoiding unnecessary contact en route to your destination, and plan for the safe use and disposal of these items. Being prepared helps you to leave no trace and enjoy the outdoors, rather than worrying. Know before you go!
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: When spending time outdoors, the goal is to avoid damaging the environment as best as you can. This means traveling on established trails whenever possible and selecting campsites that avoid delicate vegetation and disturbing surrounding wildlife. It’s often best to set up camp where there is a clearly established site or signs of past use.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly: Before heading out, understand all proper ways to dispose of waste, which will help you do your best to leave no trace. This extends beyond the common knowledge of “pack it in, pack it out.”
4. Leave What You Find: This principle is fairly obvious, but as a general rule, don’t bring home anything you find on the trail that belongs in nature and don’t alter the landscape by nailing or hammering holes in trees, picking flowers, etc.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts: Campfires can cause lasting damage to the backcountry, but camping stoves leave no trace. If you do decide to start a fire, make sure you understand how to do so with the least amount of impact on the surrounding environment.
6. Respect Wildlife: The best way to leave no trace is to observe wildlife from a distance. Do not touch, feed, get close or pick up wild animals. Take only pictures of your favorite wildflowers.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Everyone wants to enjoy their time outdoors. Be considerate of others when passing them on trails or camping nearby by keeping noise levels down, yielding to uphill traffic, and keeping your pets (where allowed) under control.
To learn more about the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, click here.
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