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The Leave No Trace Philosophy

- Posted by Kevin - Posted on 11/05/10 11:44AM

Wikipedia defines Leave No Trace as the following.
"Leave No Trace is a national and international program designed to assist outdoor enthusiasts with their decisions about how to reduce their impacts when they hike, camp, picnic, snowshoe, run, bike, hunt, paddle, ride horses, fish, ski or climb. The program strives to educate all those who enjoy the outdoors about the nature of their recreational impacts as well as techniques to prevent and minimize such impacts. Leave No Trace is best understood as an educational and ethical program, not as a set of rules and regulations. Leave No Trace information helps public land visitors understand and practice minimum impact skills and ethics.

The Leave No Trace program is a combination of science and common sense for enjoying the outdoors responsibly. The message is framed under seven principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors"
     

The  seven simple rules are there for a reason.  The first is always to plan ahead and prepare for your stint in the wilderness.  Following this rule is what keeps people alive as planning should give you an idea of what you are in for and preparation is always key to survival in nature.

Secondly, travel and camp on durable surfaces or 'TCDS' is a good way to wake up in the same location that you fell asleep.  There are many unstable types of terrain in our North America.  Their danger level is only heightened by our weather patterns.  It is also important to note game trails and close by game big game markings for your own safety.  Placing your campsite on another animals habitat is a sure way to earn you some interaction with wildlife.

The third rule is to dispose of your waste properly.  This applies to both your garbage and your human waste.  It is important to keep garbage from food well away from you tent and in a lockable container if possible.  Human waste should be packed and thrown out at the nearest location possible or buried at least 36 inches from the surface and 50ft away from the nearest campsite and 100ft away from the nearest river, creek, lake or stream. 

Leave what you find is one of the most important rules out there for a multitude of reasons.  It is easy to be fooled by something's beauty, only to find out later it is infected with bacteria that can be easily infectious to new surroundings.  Also, if everybody took just one thing every time they went for a hike, there would be nothing left in under three years.  Keep what beauty is still available and leave what you find, where you find it. 

Minimizing campfire impacts a pretty clear and obvious rule.  Every fire ruins a small piece of nature, from what you burn, to where you burn it and even how it is burned all affects the impact your fire will leave on the wild.  Never create new fire pits unless you absolutely have to and always try to use what is available.  There are few places left in this continent that don't have fire pits built somewhere.  Find them and use them.  Be especially careful in the fall and autumn as everything is at it's driest and wildfire can spread very rapidly.

Always respect the wildlife while out in nature.  Remember they are sharing their habitats with you, even though most of you would never share yours with them.  Do not approach or feed any wild animals as it will only promote aggression towards humans in the future for that animal.  What goes around, comes around, and I believe this is true for all animals and living things really.  Admire from a distance and if one crosses your path closer than you would like, if standing still doesn't keep them walking, try screaming quickly and loudly.

All of the previous rules impact this final one which is be considerate to other visitors.  Most people go out into nature to enjoy the peacefulness and the quiet that it offers them.  Avoid screaming and yelling as often as possible both for human and animal visitors.  Treat others out there as you want them to treat you and the same applies for yours and their pets.

Follow the 'Leave No Trace' philosophy and you will find the nature that you enjoy will be around a lot longer than if this philosophy is not followed.  All of these rules are important for the previously mentioned but in a whole shot it keeps you and future visitors safer from wildlife, injuries and uncomfortable interaction with others around.  Be safe, enjoy the trails and leave no trace.