Leave No Trace is more than just picking up litter and fully extinguishing campfires. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimates that over three million people access the A.T. each year. Without responsible outdoor practices, these crowds, crammed into a narrow trail corridor, can result in permanent damage to this delicate wilderness. By learning the concepts and skills necessary to leave no trace, we can become better stewards of the Appalachian Trail and can help protect it for the enjoyment of future hikers.
The concept of leaving no trace was formed by the U.S. Forest Service back in the 1960’s to help people enjoy the outdoors while minimizing their impact on the natural environment. Today, the national Leave No Trace educational program is managed by a non-profit organization, established in 1994, called The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. The Leave No Trace educational program is centered around the following seven principles:
Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend an excellent presentation of the Leave No Trace Trainer course, where we gained a deeper understanding of the concepts behind these seven principles. There are no hard and fast rules to follow. The heart of the program is feeling a personal connection to the outdoors and behaving in a common-sense manner that minimizes human impact in the backcountry. Simple things, like the following, can have a major impact on preserving our natural world:
- Stay on designated trails
- Use established campsites
- Don’t pick wildflowers
- Use an established fire ring (or just skip building a fire)
- Never feed animals
- Be quiet in camp
- If you pack it in, pack it out
Of course, Leave No Trace applies to much more than the Appalachian Trail. The Leave No Trace Seven Principles apply, in one way or another, to all outdoor activities including fishing, caving, rock climbing, kayaking, and horseback riding. If we all adopt these ethics and educate ourselves on the skills that enable us to leave no trace, we can apply these principles whether we are hiking in remote wilderness or walking in an urban park. To learn more about Leave No Trace, and how you can help preserve the outdoors, please visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics website. While you are there, why not become a member?