By Darryl Alder
Jun 02, 2014

Outdoor Ethics and Leave No Trace Training


Lord Baden Powell inspects Prince of Wales School Scout Camp (1930’s)

“When you leave (the camp), leave nothing but your thanks and a good name.”
Lord Baden-Powell

Since outdoor life is one of our key methods for teaching youth, no place in Scouting is more important than the outdoors.  According to Keith Abraham, Utah National Parks Council Outdoor Ethics Advocate, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has begun to use the term “Outdoor Ethics” in conjunction with its outdoor programs, rank advancements and awards.  However, there is some confusion as to what the term Outdoor Ethics really means.on the trail

At BSA’s Leave No Trace website, they explain Outdoor Ethics by challenging Scouts to “help protect the back-country by remembering that while you are there, you are a visitor. When you visit a friend, you take care to leave your friend’s home just as you found it. You would never think of trampling garden flowers, chopping down trees in the yard, putting soap in the drinking water, or marking your name on the living room wall. When you visit the backcountry, the same courtesies apply. Leave everything just as you found it.

“Hiking and camping without a trace are signs of an expert outdoors-man, and of a Scout or Scouter who cares for the environment. Travel lightly on the land.”

As an organization we have a long and noble tradition of conservation service to the nation. How do we preserve that tradition? By heeding the challenge in the Outdoor Code:

As an American, I will do my best to—
Be clean in my outdoor manners.
Be careful with fire.
Be considerate in the outdoors.
Be conservation minded.

Abraham explains it this way:  “Outdoor Ethics is a brand, … built around the BSA Outdoor Code, Leave No Trace and TreadLightly! principles, as well as the identification, adoption, and implementation of a personal land ethic.”

Building upon this foundation, the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Venturing, and Sea Scout programs all include outdoor stewardship, care for the environment, and Leave No Trace as part of their programs. At the Boy Scout and Varsity Scout levels, youth are encouraged to take leadership positions in encouraging proper outdoor ethics using the principles of Leave No Trace. Many Venturing crews have similarly adapted Leave No Trace principles to guide their outdoor recreation activities. Through the Outdoor Code and Leave No Trace, we can take responsibility for our own impacts. We can provide leadership to those around us to reduce their impacts by making good choices. Together, we can preserve and conserve our rich environmental heritage.

  • To learn more about the Principles of Leave No Trace, click here.
  • To learn more about Tread Lightly, click here.

Scouts and Venturers who embrace the Outdoor Code and the principles of Leave No Trace often find that they wish to give back and help protect the environment that has given them so much. Some may find that they are “wild with love for the green outdoors—the trees, the tree-top singers, the wood-herbs, and the nightly things that left their tracks in the mud,” in the words of Ernest Thompson Seton, the first Chief Scout.

Abraham clarified: “The definitions of all the components comprising the Outdoor Ethics brand are:

  1. LNT-pctOutdoor Ethics is a brand name that supports the BSA Outdoor Code with Leave No Trace, TreadLightly!, and Land Ethic principles.
  2. The Leave No Trace (LNT)  Awareness Session (15-20 minutes) can be used to teach one or more, but not all, of the LNT principles. (A trained LNT-BSA-Guide is required to teach this course.)
  3. Leave No Trace Awareness Workshops can include any type of formal Leave No Trace training that is one day or less in length. These presentations may be anything from 30-minute chats about the Leave No Trace principles to full-day workshops where all seven principles are covered in one or two  hours. (A trained LNT-BSA-Guide is needed to teach this course.)
  4. An Outdoor Ethics Orientation Camporee usually devotes about four hours during a weekend campout; an hour Friday night and the rest on Saturday. At this event Scouts can complete the Leave No Trace BSA Guide requirements if a certified LNT Trainer is on the camporee staff.
  5. Leave No Trace 101 is a four hour course designed to teach to adults that will be instructing and certifying Leave No Trace requirements for Scouts. They will earn the Leave No Trace BSA Guide certification of the course is taught by a LNT Trainer or higher.
  6. Leave No Trace Trainer Course – Leave No Trace Trainer courses are two-day trainings taught by Master Educators in the outdoors. Trainer courses are designed to help participants better understand and teach Leave No Trace skills and ethics.
  7. Leave No Trace Master Educator Course – Is a five-day course designed for people who arelntpatchn actively teaching outdoor skills or providing recreation information to the public. This valuable training is recognized throughout the world by the outdoors industry, land management agencies, and the outdoor recreation community. Master Educators can train others in Leave No Trace skills as well as facilitate Leave No Trace Trainer courses and awareness workshops.
  8. Outdoor Ethics Rank Advancement  has been integrated in all Cub Scout ranks. Boy Scouts, find it in First Class requirements, and Leave No Trace can be found in at least 10 merit badges and the new Venture/Ranger Awards have many Leave No Trace components.award
  9. Cub Scout Outdoor Ethics AwardsCub Scouts, Webelos and their leaders can earn this award that emphasizes how to practice Leave No Trace in developed areas. 
  10. Boy Scout/Varsity Scout Leave No Trace Awareness Award – Boylnt.jpg Scouts, Varsity Scouts and their leaders can earn this award that emphasizes how to practice Leave No Trace in backcountry or primitive areas and the teaching of Leave No Trace skills to others. Outdoor Ethics Orientation Camporee can be used towards Outdoor Ethics Award requirements.
  11. Adult Outdoor Ethics Awards – Can earn patch and a nifty name badge that can be upgraded with stickers.
  12. LNT Trainer‘Troop Leave No Trace Trainer’ Youth Leadership Position can be used as leadership credit towards Eagle. (This was introduced in 2010.) The Leave No Trace Trainer specializes in teaching LTN principles and ensuring that the troop follows these principles on outings. The Trainer can also help Scouts earn the Leave No Trace award by having a thorough understanding of and
    commitment to Leave No Trace. Ideally, he should have earned the Camping and Environmental Science merit badges.
  13. Troop Instructor youth leadership positionInstructor (credit towards Eagle) – If a young man completed the LNT Trainer course, but is not yet 14, he may serve as a Troop Instructor of Leave No Trace. If he completes the Outdoor Ethics Orientation Camporee, or similar program, he may serve as Troop Instructor of Outdoor Ethics.

Outdoor ethics is not just for youth. Adult volunteers are encouraged to seek training in basic outdoor skills and even take specialized courses to learn Leave No Trace skills. Utah National Parks Council is pleased to offer a 6-day course September 15–20, 2014  at the Entrada High Adventure Base, Moab, UT. Register for this course to earn the Leave No Trace Master Educator (LNT-ME). An LNT-ME Instructor will be on staff.

Keith described this:  “As part of the overall 6-day course. Each sub-course will have a 72-hour field experience: backpacking,  mountain biking, and rafting courses will be leaving base camp for their field experiences,  while the front-country and pack/riding stock courses will stay in base camp but move to a more primitive area.”

There will be a field trip for all courses to the Arches National Park where we will meet with a Ranger to discuss minimizing impacts to the local cryptobiotic soil.  We will take a short hike in the Park and then visit Dead Horse State Park where we will have lunch and view a “gooseneck” in the Colorado River, an impressive 2,000 feet below.

Maximum class size for all courses is 12 students.

  • Backpacking LNT-ME Course:  Grand Gulch Backpacking venue.  After securing a permit from the Kane Gulch Ranger Station, our group will enter the BLM Primitive Area via the Bullet Canyon Trailhead and during the next three days, hike to Sheik Canyon, turn around and hike back to Bullet Canyon Trailhead.  This is an open camping area.  The area is rife with archaeological ruins for “Leave What You Find” and offers multiple decision points for “Camp on Durable Surfaces” given the variations of possible sites.  The course is taught by Erik Lund, Leave No Trace Master Educator and the Idaho State LNT Advocate.
  • Front-Country LNT-ME Course:  Front-country is defined as an outdoor area that is close to a road or urban area.  Front-country recreation is an important focus for Leave No Trace since 85% of all outdoor recreation takes place within easy access from the road. In the United States, there are more people getting out to car camp and day hike than backpackers, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.   The course provides participants with a comprehensive overview of Leave No Trace techniques through practical application in a front-country setting.
  • Mountain Bike LNT-ME Course:  We will be learning about Leave No Trace while exploring Moab, Utah on mountain bike. Our Leave No Trace journey will start and end at Entrada High Adventure Base in Moab, Utah. We will explore the Slick Rock Trail and the Sand Flats Recreation Area on mountain bikes while learning the seven principles of Leave No Trace. We will each teach a Leave No Trace principle while biking on the trail 10-20 miles a day. We will have a sag wagon with us to carry our camping gear as we explore the Utah back country and learn how to teach low impact camping methods.
  • Pack/Riding Stock  LNT-ME Course:  This course is designed to teach participants the principles of Leave No Trace (LNT) as it applies to the use of horses and mules in the backcountry and front country.   Students learn “hands-on” instruction methods and techniques for teaching outdoor ethics to diverse audiences.  Graduates are expected to share the knowledge gained in this course with others in a “train-the-trainer” format.   All material and information presented is based on the latest wildland recreation research.  The course is taught by Craig Allen, Leave No Trace Master Educator and Utah State LNT Advocate.   He is assisted by other Master Level Instructors.
  • Rafting Master LNT-ME Course:  Near Moab, Utah, nestled in the Canyonlands, is a meandering piece of the Colorado River. This waterway at times may have some challenges.  As we paddle along in a raft or a kayak, this adventure will be full of opportunities to view the spectacular scenery.  The journey will be three nights of primitive camping as we learn to be Leave No Trace Master Educators. As we make our way down river, we will explore some historical spots.   We will be able to visualize recreational damage to the environment and discuss ways to minimize our impact. Participants in this trek will spend three days living in one of our most beautiful waterways.

You can reach Keith Abraham, Utah National Parks Council, BSA Outdoor Ethics Advocate and
Area-2 Outdoor Ethics Co-Advocate by calling:  801-971-8060 or through email at

Author: Darryl Alder | Director of Support Services, Utah National Parks Council, BSA

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