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I have just completed an outdoor educatorís course from the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and wanted to share with you some of the Leave No Trace (LNT) issues learned. This college level, month long course concentrated on teaching both hard and soft skills required to help one be a better expedition leader, protect the environment, and develop the skills for hiking, camping, backpacking and rock climbing. To achieve these goals the entire course was spent in the Abasarka and Wind River Wilderness Areas of Northern Wyoming. The entire time was spent backpacking and rock climbing during which we learned and practiced these skills on a daily basis.

NOLS Graduate - Outdoor Educator


Leave No Trace consists of seven basic points designed to help preserve and protect the environment, the inhabitants, and visitors to the forests. These rules are:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare,

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces,

3. Dispose of Waste Properly,

4. Leave What you Find,

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts,

6. Respect Wildlife, and

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

Plan Ahead and Prepare:

Unnecessary impact on the environment can be avoided by preparing for a trip. Before you hit the trail learn the area and what to expect. Ask local people and park rangers what you might expect in terms of terrain, weather, and trail conditions, regulations, and wildlife concerns. This information will help you plan your route, decide on clothing, equipment, and food requirements.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces:

Minimum-impact practices differ according to whether you visit popular or remote areas. Whenever you hike or camp it is best to confine your use to surfaces that are resistant to impact. These surfaces may include established trails, designated campsites, rock slabs, snow, sand, or pine needles. If there is an established trail use it. Donít cut corners or walk around downed trees or fallen rock just for convenience. These practices, over time, erode the vegetation and create additional trails. Not to mention the potential for killing off the plants and animals either living within them or depending of them for survival. When walking through open fields with no established trails have the group fan out and walk different routes. In this way minimizing their impact. And finally, walk in small groups (four or more in bear country and less than a dozen in all conditions). The impact of a dozen or more people trampling over a field is quite significant and has a very long lasting effect on the environment.

Dispose of Waste Properly:

Simply stated: If you brought it in with you bring it out with you! Trash and garbage have no place in the backcountry. Repackage store bought food to minimize garbage. Bring a trash bag with you to store waste till you get to the front-country. Burning or burring unwanted or unused (solid waste) items is not an acceptable disposal method.

Many people feel throwing biodegradable items like apple cores, orange peels, or similar items into the forest is okay. It is NOT OKAY. They were not there when you arrived, they many not be indigenous to the region, and even if they are indigenous they may carry bacteria or other organism which are not and thereby pose a threat to the local plants and animals. Furthermore, the site and smell of decaying trash presents an unpleasant experience to future travelers. A simple solution is to carry a small zip lock bag to store waste in until it can be disposed of properly. For day trips, I use a Tupperware container for my sandwich in which I can store all trash after Iím done eating.

Liquid (e.g. from cooking or brushing teeth) and human waste may be disposed of in the wilderness provided it is done in such a way as to:

-Avoid polluting water sources,

-Eliminates human, animal, and insect contact, and

-Maximizes itsí decomposition.

Catholes (a hole dug about 8 to 10 inches beneath the surface and covered up after its use) is the most widely accepted means of liquid / human waste disposal. Human waste should be disposed of at least 200 feet from any stationary water source or 100 feet from any (fast) moving water source. Toilet paper (even the biodegradable kind), if used, should be packed out (a zip lock bag is great for this purpose). Alternatives to toilet paper include pinecones (surprisingly nice), snow (my personal favorite!), sticks, and weathered rocks.

Leave What You Find:

You arrived to find a beautiful, pristine, area. Had a pleasant experience. If you find something interesting, even something as small as a bird feather, do not disturb it. Please leave it where you found it that way others can have a similar, if not better, wilderness experience.

Minimize Campfire Impacts:

There are many alternatives to campfires but it would be unrealistic to expect all camp visitors not to build campfires. So if you must, just be careful of surrounding trees, grass, and the (visual and environmental) effects that your campfire has. Ideally subsequent visitors should not be able to detect that you made one upon your leaving the area. Building it on snow or sand, which is later spread out or put back in the river, and surrounding the fire pit with rocks helps achieve these goals.

Respect Wildlife:

Outdoor recreation can cause a variety of effects to wildlife; including habitat alteration, disturbance, harassment, and behavior modification. These may diminish animal health, increase mortality, and alter population structure or composition.  For example, an animal attempting to avoid human contact may be displaced from their preferred habitats and may loose access to essential food or shelter. Alternatively, feeding or leaving food accessible (e.g. through trash or improperly stored food) to wildlife may attract them to areas used by humans. Resulting confrontations may lead to their death or forced destruction.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors:

Increased backcountry use may result in crowding, conflicts, and increased noise levels. Possibly threatening the quality of backcountry experiences for other visitors. These effects can be minimized by respecting the privacy of other campers and recreators. Keep your voices low, arrange breaks off trail and out of sight of others using the trails, avoid popular destinations (or visit them during off seasons), and donít camp near others.

Whether we are backpacking through the pristine Alaskan Tundra or taking a leisurely stroll along the Nassau Greenbelt these LNT rules apply and can help preserve our precious and limited natural resources. If we fail to protect and preserve these forested spaces and their inhabitants they may someday erode away and be lost forever. In some ways the Long Island hiking trails require a bit more respect and conservation as most are very narrow corridors and there is far less of them. If additional unofficial trails are eroded away a disproportional amount of these trees are destroyed and the sense of being within the forest is lost.

You enjoyed the area so let others experience that same wilderness feeling!



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