Leave No Trace
By Aneka Singlaub, Youth Leadership Coordinator at North Cascades Institute
“I win, I win, I win,” announced an elated 14-year-old boy as he scrambled up the trail flaunting what looked like a pair of men’s underwear dangling from a stick held in front of him like the Olympic torch.
“Oh boy,” I thought to myself. “This is what I get for turning Leave No Trace principles into a competition.”
From bear-safe waste containers at our environmental learning center to trash-collecting competitions on our Youth Leadership Adventures courses, Leave No Trace principles form the foundation of our effort to empower life-long environmental stewards at North Cascades Institute, one pair of discarded underwear at a time.
Leave No Trace is an ethical framework that teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. x
On any trip into the backcountry, follow the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been
reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org