Nature. It is the essence of the world. It belongs to the wind and water. It belongs to the trees and insects; and to the birds, reptiles and mammals. And it belongs to us. We have a duty to protect and respect the natural wonder of the outdoors, whether it’s 80 feet below the ocean or 14,000 feet on top of a mountain. Leave No Trace is a set of seven principles created over 40 years ago to help us remember what to do and how to prepare for a safe, rewarding, and environmentally friendly experience.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Know where you are going and prepare an alternate route. Check the weather beforehand and pack accordingly. Always carry extra items such as batteries and hand warmers. Research the terrain and what is available to you (i.e., if there is a water source). Know all rules and regulations for the area you will be visiting.
2. Travel on Durable Surfaces: Do not stray from the marked trail. Doing so can damage vegetation and create erosion. Travel single file to minimize impact of surrounding foliage.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack out what you pack in. Pack a trash bag or dispose of waste in the trash cans at a campsite. Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from water, campsites, and trails to dispose of solid human waste. Only use biodegradable camp soap to wash dishes and yourself. Never pour soap directly into streams, lakes, rivers or other waterways.
4. Leave What You Find: Preserve the past and present for the future. Don’t take artifacts or other pieces of history you may find. Leave rocks, flowers, logs, animal bones, nests, and other objects of nature in their place. Take pictures instead or describe items in a journal.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts: Avoid building a fire in the backcountry. Use a stove for cooking and a lantern, flashlight, or headlamp for light. Use existing campfire rings or pits to build a fire and never burn trash. Make sure the fire is completely extinguished before you leave the site.
6. Respect Wildlife: Treat wildlife as you would want visitors to treat you in your home. Don’t yell, throw items, or make loud noises at them. Do not harass the wildlife and always observe from a distance. Do not feed the animals. Do not allow your pets to chase the wildlife. Remember, we are visitors in their home.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Be respectful to others. For many, nature is a way to escape every day life. Do not yell or play loud music. Nature is a tranquil place for us all to enjoy.
We are all stewards of the land. If we practice and share the seven principles of Leave No Trace, we can ensure the conservation of our beautiful planet for our generation and future generations. For more information, please visit www.lnt.org.