Do you know what the “Leave No Trace Principles” are? If you do, then you are ahead of the game! If not, I’m here to explain them!
Basically, the principles help us to understand why and how we should leave no trace when out in nature—this includes camping!
I’ll start by providing a little background on this movement, and where it comes from to help us all understand the 7 principles.
The first lesson is “Why should I care?” Really, why should we care? If you haven’t stayed current on pollution effects, and what is happening to our planet, you should know that every piece of trash that we leave behind has a small effect on the sustainability of our beautiful Earth. Did you know that everything that we leave behind can somehow make its way around the globe? This can happen many ways including natural causes such as water, wind, animals, etc. Our choices in nature can ultimately affect the ecosystem around us and all over the globe! At some point, waste could take over, and we will no longer have a lush and beautiful planet to enjoy. That doesn’t sound like a good time!
Think about the products we use in our daily lives. Think about all the things that we throw away. Many of those products could be recycled, if they are placed in the correct receptacles and procedures are in place to get it where it needs to go. If they aren’t recycled, they go into our trash receptacles, and end up in a landfill. What happens after that? There are many variables associated with the decomposition of waste. Some factors include landfill conditions, weather in the landfill area, etc. However, the basic timelines are the same. For example, here are some common items and the length of time it can take to decompose in a landfill:
- Plastic bags 10-1000 years
- Disposable diapers approximately 250-500 years
- Aluminum cans 80-200 years
- Glass millions of years
- Cigarette butts 10-12 years
- Foamed plastic cups 50 years
- Styrofoam NEVER biodegrades
- Tin cans 50 years
- Batteries 100 years
- Aluminum foil NEVER biodegrades
Think about all the products we use when we are camping, hiking, fishing, etc. A lot of those are on the list! We can make a difference in how the future looks for our planet!
How many times have you gone somewhere to enjoy nature, and you found a candy wrapper, cigarette pack, beer bottle, etc? I know that I usually find something each time. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. This has been done for years for many different reasons. Sometimes it is just simple carelessness, and sometimes it is by accident. Each of us are responsible for what we take and leave in nature.
Now, onto the seven principles of Leave No Trace! There are seven principles of Leave No Trace. Each of them is equal in importance. Here’s a quick overview before we get into the thick of it: 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.
Let’s jump right in!
1) Plan Ahead and Prepare
We all know how important it is to plan out our nature trips. However, there some things that you may not have considered. Know the regulations and rules of the area you plan to be in. At Lost Valley Lake Resort, you can ask any staff member if you are unsure of the rules and regulations, or you can pick up a paper copy at the Reservations or Security offices. The rules and regulations can also be found on our website at www.lostvalleylake.com. Prepare for extreme weather and emergencies. Prepare food items to reduce waste on your trip.
2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
What is a durable surface? Durable surfaces include established camp sites, trails, dry grass, rock, etc. A rule of thumb is that good campsites are found, not made. At Lost Valley Lake Resort, we have many camping options such as tent camping areas that are already set up, RV sites that are manicured for that purpose, and even platforms that have been set up in areas in which minimal nature disturbances will occur. When setting up your camp remember to disturb the natural state as little as possible to leave the area just as you found it, if not in better condition.
3) Dispose of Waste Properly
There are many different sites to dispose of waste at Lost Valley Lake Resort. If you have trouble finding one, just speak with a friendly staff member! This principle is very important! If you pack it in, pack it out. Before leaving your site, take a couple good looks around to make sure that you haven’t left anything. I always look around and pick up things even if I didn’t leave it. This principle also applies to discarded cigarette butts. If you are a smoker, take the extra couple of seconds to extinguish your cigarette, and dispose of the butt in the proper place, not in your fire, and not on the ground.
4) Leave What You Find
It can be very tempting to see something awesome in nature and want to take it with you. However, each time you do, you are disturbing the natural state of the area. Look around at things but preserve the past and leave things as you found them. Take a photo of the scenery, or object without disturbing it. Avoid transporting or introducing non-native plants and animals to the area. When we do this, we sometimes introduce parasites, and other species that will harm what is naturally there. We want to keep coming back to see the beauty that the area has to offer.
5) Minimize Campfire Impacts
Campfires are amazing when you have the family sitting around enjoying what nature has to offer. However, it can cause some lasting affects on the area. Remember to use established fire rings and designated areas not only to help contain the fire, but to ensure that new ground is not disturbed by a new fire. Keep your fire small and use firewood and smaller sticks. Take notice of any burn ban in the area to prevent a much larger fire from occurring by accident.
6) Respect Wildlife
When you are enjoying nature and all its glory, be respectful to the wildlife. Observe from a distance, but do not follow or approach wild animals. Refrain from feeding wild animals as doing so damages their natural health and can make them vulnerable to predators. This concept also applies to lakes and streams. Store your food securely to prevent animals getting a quick snack. Control and pick up after your pets. If you cannot properly do this, leave them with someone or at home. Avoid sensitive times such as mating season, nesting seasons, etc. Remember you when you are enjoying the great outdoors, you are invading the home of the native wildlife, and they will protect themselves if they feel threatened.
7) Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Respect your neighbors as they are also trying to enjoy nature’s beauty. Be courteous to others by keeping lights low and keeping noise down. Letting nature’s sounds be heard is a great way to enjoy the outdoors.
Now that you know a little more about the Leave No Trace Principles, put them into action during your next trip to the outdoors! After reading this blog post, you have a little more knowledge that you can pass on to your family, friends, and anyone else!
Here’s the bottom line: when we are in the outdoors, we should all be courteous of our actions, what we throw away, and how our presence can affect the area’s natural state. Leave things better than what they were when you arrived. It is possible to do very little damage when we are enjoying nature. It takes a little work and thought to make it happen. When we all do our part to clean up after ourselves, and preserve the area, it can be enjoyed for generations to come!