Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a two hour Leave No Trace Awareness Workshop as part of my ongoing Volunteer Naturalist training. The main theme of the workshop was that it is important for everybody to understand the combined effect that millions of people can have on our natural resources and, thus, it is important to educate as many people as possible about outdoor ethics. The following are Leave No Trace recommendations that I learned during the workshop that I wanted to share:
- Hiking single file vs. spread out – It is best to hike single file when on designated trails. However, if your group needs to hike off trail it is recommended to spread out laterally because a large group that hikes in single file off-trail can create the appearance of a new trail. Inadvertently creating the appearance of a new trail increases the likelihood that the next group of hikers will think it is a designated trail which can lead to further expansion of faux trails. Faux trails have a negative impact on the ecosystem.
- Leave what you find – Picking flowers, picking up rocks, or other items in nature reduces their significance. In other words, plants, rocks (e.g., Tipi rings), and other natural objects are more powerful in nature than they are in your house.
- Backcountry camp fires – When backcountry camping, it is recommended to speak with a local land manager or park ranger about where it is best to start a camp fire because existing camp fire circles may be bogus and creating a new one can be harmful.
- Durable surfaces – A durable surface is any surface that is resistant to footprints (e.g., rock, deep snow, dry grass). It is preferred to camp, hike, and bike on durable surfaces. Cryptobiotic soil, found in the deserts of the Colorado Plateau, is the antithesis of a durable surface because it is a living soil crust that takes up to 50 years to mature and, if destroyed, makes the land susceptible to water erosion and dust storms.