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Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace

The best way to enjoy nature is to allow it to take its own course, without disturbing any part of the ecosystem. A good way to remember your role in the forest is to “take only photos, leave only footprints.”

Additionally, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has outlined the following 7 principles for kids in nature:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare - Adequate trip planning and preparation helps backcountry travelers accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably, while simultaneously minimizing damage to the land. Poor planning often results in miserable campers and damage to natural and cultural resources. Rangers often tell stories of campers they have encountered who, because of poor planning and unexpected conditions, degrade backcountry resources and put themselves at risk.
  • Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces - The goal of travel in the outdoors is to move through natural areas while avoiding damage to the land or waterways. Understanding how travel causes impacts is necessary to accomplish this goal. Travel damage occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond recovery. The resulting barren area leads to soil erosion and the development of undesirable trails. Backcountry travel may involve travel over both trails and off-trail areas.
  • Dispose of Waste Properly - The Center encourages outdoor enthusiasts to consider the impacts that they leave behind, which will undoubtedly affect other people, water and wildlife.
  • Leave What You Find - Allow others a sense of discovery by leaving rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts - Campfire building is also an important skill for every camper. Yet, the natural appearance of many areas has been degraded by the overuse of fires and an increasing demand for firewood. The development of lightweight efficient camp stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire for cooking. Stoves have become essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. They are fast, flexible and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. Stoves operate in almost any weather condition—and they Leave No Trace.
  • Respect Wildlife - Learn about wildlife through quiet observation. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a “better look.” Observe wildlife from a distance so they are not scared or forced to flee. Large groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife so keep your group small. If you have a larger group, divide into smaller groups if possible to minimize your impacts.
  • Be Kind To Other Visitors - One of the most important components of outdoor ethics is to maintain courtesy toward other visitors. It helps everyone enjoy their outdoor experience. Many people come to the outdoors to listen to nature. Excessive noise, uncontrolled pets and damaged surroundings take away from the natural appeal of the outdoors.

Tread Lightly, a program created by the Forest Service in 1985, has set out to balance the needs of people who enjoy outdoor recreation with the need to conserve the environment. For fun stories for kids, go to the special Tread Lightly kid’s page. For more tips on how to lessen your environmental impact while taking on more elaborate outdoor activities, visit Tread Lightly's site.