Leave No Trace

"When I go I leave no trace.
The beauty of the country is becoming a part of me.
Now the aspen trunks are tall and white in the moonlight.
A wind croons in the pines,
The mountain sleeps." ~ Everett Ruess

Once North America was all wilderness.  However, with time, there were fewer natural
places and more land was developed.  Some people began to worry that one day there would
be no wilderness left.  The U.S. Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964 to protect
some wild lands forever.  Wilderness is a place where natural processes operate freely.  
The natural environment of the wilderness may appear rugged and harsh, but it is actually a
very fragile system.

It is the responsibility of all visitors to help ensure the preservation of these unique areas
by practicing Leave No Trace (LNT) techniques as well as federal regulations.

Leave No Trace!  Leaving no trace depends more on attitude and awareness than on
rules and regulations.  Your actions can make a difference in protecting the wilderness.  
Here are the 7 principles of Leave No Trace.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare:  This is the most probably the important part of having a
safe and fun wilderness experience!  Know the regulations of the area where you plan to
visit and make sure you have the required permits.  Many Wilderness Areas require a
Wilderness Permit.  Call ahead to the ranger station to find out current local weather and
trail conditions.  Plan for the possibility of extreme weather, high water crossings and
other hazards, and unexpected emergencies.  Always bring a map and compass and know how
to use them.  Consider the physical condition, skills, experience, and expectations of all the
members of your group when planning your trip.  Teach everyone about Leave No Trace well
before leaving home. Plan to filter or boil all drinking water because here are Giardia cysts
and other contaminants in many water sources.  Protect your food from black bears by
using bear-resistant canisters if possible, or by hanging your food bags by the counter-
balance method.  Some areas require canisters.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Please stay on the trail; cutting
switchbacks causes erosion.  If you have to hike off trail, please hike on durable surfaces
and avoid fragile areas such as meadows.  Select a campsite on a hard dry surface such as
rock, sand, gravel, or pine needle duff, not on vegetation or meadows.  Make sure that your
campsite is at least 200 feet from water sources and trails.  200 feet equals 80-100
normal walking steps.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly:  Pack out everything you pack in.  Human food and
trash is unhealthy for animals and leads to harmful habituation by animals to human
presence and food.  Pick up trash left by less thoughtful visitors and leave your campsite
cleaner than you found it. All soaps, including biodegradable ones, pollute.  Soap changes the
delicate pH balance of water and can seriously affect aquatic plant and animal life by
introducing phosphates and other chemicals.  Wash-water must be disposed of at least 200
feet from any lake, stream, or watercourse. Human waste must also be disposed of
carefully.  Bury waste at least 6 inches deep, and 200 feet or further from water sources,
trails or campsites.  Use toilet paper sparingly and pack it out.  A plastic bag confines odors
effectively and double bagging it prevents any accidental contamination.

4. Leave What You Find: Natural objects of beauty or interest, such as pinecones
and fossils, should be left for others to discover and enjoy.  In National Parks it is illegal
to remove natural objects.  In all areas it is illegal to remove cultural artifacts such as
arrowheads or pictographs.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts: Campfire permits are required in some Wilderness
Areas. Before building a campfire, consider the area’s ability to produce wood and the
impacts that the fire might cause on vegetation and soils.  Tree growth is slow in alpine
areas and the wood in these areas is limited and needed for nutrient recycling. Consider
not having a fire and using only camping stoves – this is the healthiest alternative for the
land.  Where fires are permitted, use existing fire rings if appropriately placed 200 feet
from trails, lakes, or streams.  Where fire restrictions are in effect, only gas stoves are
allowed.  Always be concerned and alert about fire danger from your campfire, camp stove,
or careless disposal of cigarettes.  Never leave your fire unattended; make sure it is cold
to the touch before leaving camp or going to bed.

6. Respect Wildlife: Never feed wild animals!  This is for your own safety and the
health of the wild animal.  Habituation to human food leads to unhealthy interactions
between wildlife and people – the animal is usually the worse for the experience.  Always
store food and trash properly, either in a bear canister or by hanging your food using the
counter-balance method.   Pets must be kept under control and not allowed to harass
wildlife, stock, or other visitors.  Dogs and other pets are not allowed in National Park
Wilderness Areas.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Solitude is an important part of the
wilderness experience.  It is freedom from intrusion of human sights and sounds.  Respect
the solitude of others by avoiding boisterous behavior and loud noises and by camping in
areas that are not visible to other visitors.  Let Nature’s sounds prevail.  To some,
electronic devices are a necessity even in wildlands.  To other it is inappropriate,
interfering with solitude and natural sounds.  Avoid conflicts by making a conscious effort
to allow everyone their own experience.  Avoid the use of bright lights, cell phones, radios,
electronic games, walkie-talkies and other intrusive devices.  If they must be used, use
earphones.  Keep the noise down, especially at night or in remote places.  Keep voices low.  
Discharging firearms may be very disturbing to other visitors and wildlife and should be
minimized.  In National Parks possessing firearms is illegal and in some National Forest
areas it is illegal to discharge firearms except in the legal pursuit of game.

Pack and Saddle Stock Etiquette

When encountering pack stock, please step ten feet off the trail, moving to the safest
side of the trail (with all members of your part on the same side of the trail).  This
practice will ensure a safe passing and help prevent damage from stock stepping off the

Many people enjoy visiting wilderness with pack stock.  In camp, tie stock to hitch lines at
least 200 feet away from water, trails, and campsites.  Unload and load only in camp.
Scatter manure left in camp or hitch areas before you leave.  Keep the area clean.

Pellets and cubes are easy to handle on pack trips and are the recommended supplemental
feed for stock.

Other Things You Need to Know:

Please contact your nearest Ranger Station for a complete listing of regulations.

1. Many Wilderness Areas have group size restrictions.  The smaller the group, the easier it
is on the land.
2. Possessing or using any wheeled mechanical device, including but not limited to bicycles,
wagons, or carts.  Wheelchairs are allowed.
3. Cutting or defacing standing trees, dead or alive.

For more info, please visit www.lnt.org
Learning to teach Leave No Trace
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