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What Is The Leave No Trace Policy?

What Is The Leave No Trace Policy?

​The Leave No Trace policy initially began in the 1960s and was created by the USDA Forest Service when the rangers began noticing the lasting impacts that visitors to the national parks were leaving.

By the 1980s, the Forest Service made a formal program centered on no trace camping and leaving nothing behind which focused on responsible camping and wilderness ethics, and from there the idea grew.

Forest Service Wooden Logo

As the program developed, it turned into a pamphlet and then an education program that was taught around the country, which eventually led to the creation of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

This organization still upholds all of the principles of the policy but works to incorporate new findings so that the education and programs are up to date and relevant.

The Leave No Trace Principles

To understand everything that the Leave No Trace policy stands for, it’s best to look at each of the principles and what they stand for. Keep these in mind the next time you’re planning a trip outdoors so that you can upkeep the policy for yourself.

Plan Ahead And Prepare

Those who venture outdoors camping or hiking and are unprepared often find themselves in dangerous situations. Having a prepared kit of food, rations, water, and other supplies means you’re less likely to make an impact on the land.

Travel And Camp On Durable Surfaces

There is potential to damage land if you camp on something that might not be stable or is the home of different vegetation and organisms. You should always plan where you’ll set up your camp and choose somewhere that’s flat and free from nature.

Dispose Of Waste Properly

If there are no trash cans available in your camping ground, you need to ensure that you’re taking all of your waste with you. This can include everything from food scraps to recyclable materials and even personal human waste.

Leave What You Find

Although it can be tempting to take back artifacts or things that you want to keep for sentimental reasons, you should leave the wilderness exactly as you found it.

Holding Pedernales Arrowhead In Hand

If every camper took just one item from each trip they had, the wilderness would be bare in no time at all. This principle also refers to leaving the land as you found it, and avoiding things like cutting down branches or digging trenches at your campsite.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

Our campfires can have a huge impact on our surroundings, so you need to be careful with them. Countless areas have been destroyed by fires, so Leave no Trace is actively working to remove them completely from the outdoors or educate people on low impact fires instead.

Respect Wildlife

As a camper, you are venturing into the land of the wildlife and you must respect them. Minimize the impact that you have on them and their ecosystems by not polluting them, harming them, disturbing them, feeding them, or leaving anything behind that could do them harm.

Be Considerate Of Other Visitors

Our parks and grounds are for everyone to enjoy, and it’s essential that we respect other visitors as well. Try to limit your noise, follow hiking etiquette when you’re out, and be mindful of those around you at all times.

These key principles were created for those using the backcountry when camping, however, there have been some modern variations and editions for front country camping and hiking.

As Leave No Trace Organization continues their work, there’s no doubt that these principles will be adapted and added to as we learn more about the delicate environment we live in.

The Importance Of The Policy

There are so many small ways that the Leave No Trace 7 principles help our wilderness, but overall it helps to maintain the pristine nature of the outdoors. Many years ago before this policy was in place, it wasn’t uncommon to find people leaving garbage behind or taking sticks or plants with them after a camping trip.

Leaving Garbage After Camping

However, thanks to the public knowledge of the Leave No Trace system you would rarely find this happening today.

Although some ecologists would argue that more needs to be done if we’re to protect our natural environment, there’s no doubt that this has been a huge step in the right direction.

If everyone who went hiking or camping were to stringently follow these seven principles, there’s no doubt that they’ll be doing a huge service to the wilderness it helping to maintain its fragile environments and ecosystems.