Leave No Trace encourages people to get outdoors to enjoy nature, while doing so in a responsible manner. It refers to a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors. It is built on seven principles: Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife and Be Considerate of Other Visitors. The seven principles have been adapted to different activities, ecosystems and environments.
Leave No Trace provides a framework for outdoor recreation decision making, which is summarized in the following seven principles. Originally developed for the "backcountry", there are now also seven "frontcountry" principles as well:
Backcountry guidelines are guidelines for sparsely inhabited rural areas; wilderness.
- Plan Ahead and Prepare: Poorly prepared people, when presented with unexpected situations, often resort to high-impact solutions that degrade the outdoors or put themselves at risk. Proper planning leads to less impact.
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Damage to land occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond repair. The resulting barren area leads to unusable trails, campsites and soil erosion.
- Dispose of Waste Properly: Though most trash and litter in the backcountry is not significant in terms of the long term ecological health of an area, it does rank high as a problem in the minds of many backcountry visitors. Trash and litter are primarily social impacts which can greatly detract from the naturalness of an area. Further, backcountry users create body waste and waste water which requires proper disposal.
- Leave What You Find: Minimize site alterations, such as digging tent trenches, hammering nails into trees, permanently clearing an area of rocks or twigs and removing items.
- Minimize Campfire Impacts: Because the naturalness of many areas has been degraded by overuse of fires, seek alternatives to fires or use low-impact fires.
- Respect Wildlife: Minimize impact on wildlife and ecosystems.
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Following hiking etiquette and maintaining quiet allows visitors to go through the wilderness with minimal impact on other users.
Frontcountry guidelines are guidelines for day-use areas like parks and trails.
- Plan Ahead: Know the local rules and regulations. Remember to bring food, water, and appropriate clothing. Bring a map so you don’t get lost. Bring a bag to pack out your trash. Don’t forget a leash for your animal. Take the time to learn about the area.
- Stick to Trails: Stay on the trails as they are marked if you can. Try not to disturb wildflowers and other plants. Don’t trespass on private property.
- Manage Your Companion Animal: Keep your animal on a leash at all times. Use a plastic bag to pack out their waste. Do not let your companion animal chase wildlife.
- Leave What You Find: Don’t pick wildflowers. Leave rocks and other objects where they are. Do not mark or carve into living plants.
- Respect Other Visitors: Be courteous to others on trails when biking or running. Make room for others on trails and be cautious when passing. Don’t disturb others by making lots of noise or playing loud music. Respect “No Trespassing” and “Do Not Enter” signs.
- Trash Your Trash: Remove any trash you bring with you. Make sure it is put in a receptical or take it with you. Even natural materials, like bits of fruit, should not be thrown on the ground. They attract pests and detract from the natural beauty of an area.
BEYOND LEAVE NO TRACE
In a world of global capital circulation where the goods we produce and consume in order to enjoy the outdoors can have long-term and far-reaching social and environmental ramifications, it is important to also think beyond the Leave No Trace principals. Consider the environment when making purchases of outdoor gear, food and clothing...and respect the ecosystems you visit. Most importantly, practice environmental ethics wherever you go and with all daily choices you make.
- Educate yourself and others about the places you visit
- Purchase only the equipment and clothing you need
- Take care of the equipment and clothing you have
- Make conscientious food, equipment and clothing consumption choices
- Minimize waste production
- Reduce energy consumption
- Get involved by conserving and restoring the places you visit
Since 1994, Leave No Trace Center For Outdoor Ethics, a non-profit organization also known as Leave No Trace, exists to educate people about their recreational impact on nature as well as the principles of Leave No Trace to prevent and minimize such impacts. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has partnerships with the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers and nearly 400 other partners such as colleges, universities, outfitter/guide services, small businesses, non-profits and youth serving organizations.