Have you ever been hiking? Backpacking? Backcountry skiing? What do you love about those activities? Where is your favorite spot? How does being outside make you feel?

What if the thousands of people who also enjoy some of your favorite places took those places for granted? What if they trashed the landscape? Picked flowers from the ground and tore branches from trees? What if they hassled the wildlife? Played boom boxes and threw big parties? What if when you visited, you were met with polluted mountain streams, poop on the ground, and a scarred landscape? How would that scene make you feel?

As user numbers on our public lands continue to climb, including over 900 million visitors annually to our national parks alone, the toll we’re collectively taking on that land increases exponentially. While few of us are maliciously abusing our land, all of us who visit and appreciate wild places have an impact there. Many of us neither realize our impact nor understand ways that we might mitigate it.

Below is a list of principles that are aimed at educating all of us that we may be better patrons of our public lands and indeed better citizens of the natural world. As humans, it is our privilege to enjoy all the world has to offer, and also our responsibility to understand how we affect the world around us so that we may interact with respect and integrity.

 

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
    • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
    • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
    • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
    • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
    • Repackage food to minimize waste.
    • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

       

  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
    • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
    • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
    • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
    • In popular areas:
      • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
      • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
      • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
    • In pristine areas:
      • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
      • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

         

  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
    • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
    • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
    • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
    • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

       

  4. Leave What You Find
    • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
    • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
    • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
    • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

       

  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
    • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
    • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
    • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
    • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

       

  6. Respect Wildlife
    • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
    • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
    • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
    • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
    • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

       

  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
    • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
    • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
    • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
    • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
    • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

 

 

To learn more, click on the image above.
Educate yourself. Be the change.