outdoor ethics
By Madison Austin
Mar 24, 2018

How to Practice Leave No Trace and Outdoor Ethics When Camping

As Scouters, it is our duty to understand the current BSA Outdoor Ethics guidelines. It is important to not only know but take to heart these principles. The BSA Outdoor Ethics guidelines include three key outdoor doctrines:

1) leave no trace outdoor ethicsThe Outdoor Code

2) Tread Lightly

3) Leave No Trace (LNT)

In this article, we will focus on Leave No Trace (LNT)!

This Code is vital to all Scouts in their rank advancement:

Second Class Rank: 1b: “Explain the principles of Leave No Trace and tell how you practiced them on a campout outing. This outing must be different from the ones used for Tenderfoot requirement 1c.”

If it is important for the Scouts to know and understand, shouldn’t each Scouter do likewise?

The Principles of Leave No Trace can be found in the current edition of The Boy Scout Handbook, 13th Edition, 2016, pages 224-233.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

It is important and vital to the environment to plan ahead and prepare for your stay in the outdoors. This can be done by knowing the regulations and any special concerns for the area you plan on visiting. Being properly prepared for the season and terrain that you will be visiting. Planning your excursion to avoid times of high use, and to plan on traveling in small groups (if possible). Carefully, examine the contents of your pack to condense where possible to minimize waste. Become very comfortable using a map and compass. This will greatly assist you in staying on established trails and camping in low impact campsites. Inform others of your intended destination, and estimated time of return.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Durable surfaces are established trails and campsites. These surfaces include rock, gravel, dry grasses, and snow (caution should be exercised to be aware of what is underneath the snow, especially where the snow is light. Proper research beforehand will help in having a knowledge of the area you plan to visit). Remember the best campsites are found not made. Plan your campsites at least 200 feet from lakes, streams, and rivers. Walking single file on trails is best practice. Be aware of possible erosion on trails by trying to avoid worsening the condition. Try to travel and camp so that others coming after you, never knew you were there.

Dispose of Waste Properly

If you pack it in, pack it out! This includes and spilled foods, any trash found anywhere on the trail or campsite, and YES even your toilet paper and hygiene products. A good tip is to include surgical gloves in your toilet paper bag and use them to collect the used toilet paper. Wash yourself and your dishes at least 200 feet from any water source, campsite, and trail. Strain all dishwater (a thigh-high nylon sock is perfect for this) and scatter the remaining water in a “broadcast matter” away from any water source, campsite, and trail. Use cat-holes 6 to 8 inches deep for all solid human waste (remember you must pack out your toilet paper – DO NOT BURN IT!). These holes must be at least 200 feet from any water source, campsite, and trail. Don’t forget to cover and disguise the holes. Failure to properly dispose of waste could endanger the next visitors to the area, by attracting wild animals with bad dispositions such as BEARS!

Leave What You Find

Take only pictures, do not bring home any artifacts (arrowheads, pottery shards, and bone tools), rocks, plants, or cute cuddly bear cubs! Do not climb on or destroy any ancient structures, or topple any natural terrain features you might encounter. Don’t add to the area any structures, artworks, or trenches. There is not enough space for everyone to contribute, so just leave the area the way you found it, other than picking up any trash that might be there.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

outdoor ethicsWhenever possible use lightweight backpacking stoves instead of building or using campfires. If campfires are permitted and you feel the need to use one, use any established ones, and don’t build new ones. Keep your fires small, and only use what is found on the ground. (Smaller sticks that can be broken by hand are best.) Burn all wood and coals to ash and ensure that the campfire is totally out before you leave the area. A stick in the middle notifies any others coming to the campsite that the fire is totally out!

Respect Wildlife

Contrary to popular opinion Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo Bear are not friendly and sociable! However, they do love any food they can find, so keep it out of scent, sight, and reach! Use approved bear boxes to secure any food, personal hygiene products, trash, and cooking and eating clothes. Observe all wildlife from a distance and never follow or approach them. Take only pictures. Feeding wildlife is like signing their “Death Warrant”, because if they become use to being feed, then they will endanger future visitors when they don’t feed them! If they are predators (bears, wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions) they might have to be put to death. Leave your pets at home. Remember if you dog encounters a bear, they will run right back to you, bringing along their new-found friend! Be sensitive to wildlife nesting, mating, and feeding areas. AVOID THEM!

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

The sounds of nature are more than adequate to calm the savage beast within you. There is no need for loud annoying music in any form in the outdoors. Even headphones on the trail should be discouraged. When we become distracted by the most current song or band, we become detached from what is happening around us, and we just might blindly walk into “Mama Bear’s dining room”! Be courteous of others including the local wildlife and plants. Always step to the downhill side of a trail when encountering pack animals. Keep your voices very low when talking to each other. Take breaks and camp away from trails, and other visitors. Inform officials of any concerns that you notice while on your activity.

We are part of the land ethic community – “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively the land.” Aldo Leopold A Sand County Almanac. Let us all strive to leave the outdoors better than we found it

Remember as American we need to set the example by Treading Lightly and Leaving No Trace.

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