Kaye’s Corner: Leave no trace

MEEKER | As Earth Day arrives on April 22 along with likely increased recreational use this summer, I am reminded of the Leave No Trace principles. They support stewardship of the outdoors and remind all of us to be responsible caretakers of our environment.

While many people have embodied these practices for a long time including indigenous American Indians, use of our environment has been formalized by the Center for Ethics and endorsed by federal agencies who manage public lands.

More recently many state parks, local communities, and others have embraced and promote these concepts. “Today, LNT reaches over 15 million Americans and dozens of countries with conservation initiatives, education, training, research and outreach” per the Center.

Seven basic concepts define Leave No Trace practices starting with “Leave what you find, take only photos and memories.”

  1. Plan ahead and prepare. Know the type of terrain and possible weather conditions you might encounter. Minimize impacts by keeping groups small. Walking single file and avoiding shortcuts will limit damage to the trail. Bring water, wear appropriate footwear, and know where you are going.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Focus activity on resilient ground. Surfaces consisting of sand, gravel, rock, snow, or dry grass are durable and can withstand heavy use. Walk through mud/puddles to avoid widening the trail.
  3. Dispose of waste properly. Pack it in, pack it out! This includes not only food wrappers, but also biodegradable waste such as banana peels, etc. Pick up trash left by others. Dispose of human waste in catholes dug 6-8 inches deep in soil at least 200 feet from any water source. Pack out all toilet paper and hygiene products.
  4. Leave what you find. You can look, but please don’t take. Leave everything that you find in the wilderness where it belongs. Avoid moving rocks, picking plants, and disturbing cultural and historic artifacts.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts. Keep your campfire small—or go without. Use previously constructed fire rings. Only burn small diameter wood found on the ground. Do not damage live or fallen trees. Be aware of the level of fire danger of the area. Make sure your campfire is completely smothered before you leave camp.
  6. Respect wildlife. Let the wild be wild. Keep your distance and do not attract or approach animals. Never feed them food intended for humans as this disrupts their natural foraging habits. Control pets in natural areas and always keep them restrained.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors. Show respect for other trail users. Keep voices/noises from getting intrusively loud. Obey any posted trail rules including rights of way. Minimize visual impacts by wearing earth tone-colored clothes (except hunting season).

Our Meeker based Bureau of Land Management and National Forest services provide training to their staff, outfitters and guides who instruct visitors. These services extend to groups like mountain bikers and the Wagon Wheel OHV Club. Local employees stress these examples of Leave No Trace while recreating around Meeker:

Don’t tie your horse to a tree. This can cause bark “girdling” and “dishing” caused by pawing the ground or chewing on trees.

Whether hiking, biking, or off-roading, “stay the trail.” Shortcuts contribute to erosion and may cause plants to take forever to re-generate.

When dispersed camping (not in a formal campground) return the area to its former condition. Do not create new fire pits or leave unsightly tracks.

Avoid driving on muddy roads as leaving ruts that others will have to navigate or repair. Wait until the ground is solid. Do not speed which will lead to washboard conditions.

Put out your fire – completely. Do not start campfires when restrictions prohibit them.

Don’t leave trash. Clean up your campsite or picnic area and try to leave it even better than you found it.

Don’t scare wildlife. Keep your distance and remember they may attack you. This is their home. Be respectful.

Be quiet and give other visitors the joy of peace in the great outdoors. Don’t use speaker phone, don’t blare your radio, don’t shout down the trail to your buddies.

Keep children under control. No picking wildflowers, no screaming, no climbing on archives. Teach the Leave No Trace principles early.

Remember that if our recreational lands are destroyed, it will cost taxpayers and users money to repair.

Our public lands, parks, and recreational sites belong to all of us. Respectful and ethical use promotes an environment that we can all be proud of and pass on to our grandchildren. Please, Leave No Trace.

Special thanks to the White River District BLM and National Forest staff for their contributions to this article. Please contact them if you would like additional information or training.

By KAYE SULLIVAN – Special to the Herald Times