Every time you step into nature, you are confronted with a series of decisions. Can you leave those food scraps from your picnic behind because animals will probably enjoy them? Where are your kids supposed to go to the bathroom when the park doesn’t have restroom facilities? How close can you come to that beautiful deer without scaring it off? Should you briefly veer off-trail to look at the breathtaking view, even when the sign says to stay on the trail?

Know your footprint

Your actions in the natural world are integral to the foundation of your outdoor ethic. And many of our collective actions have been studied, with the overwhelming conclusion that people can make significant, lasting impacts to the nature they care so deeply about. People can literally love the land to death. To address these impacts to wild lands and wildlife, a set of outdoor skills and recommendations has been assembled into a program called Leave No Trace.

"Your actions in the natural world are integral to the foundation of your outdoor ethic. And many of our collective actions have been studied, with the overwhelming conclusion that people can make significant, lasting impacts to the nature they care so deeply about."

More than half a century old, today Leave No Trace is an international movement with an organization, research and programs to support it. The Leave No Trace program is used by the National Park Service, United States Forest Service as well as in state and city parks across the country.

No traces

Leave No Trace presents a framework to support people with practical, scientifically-derived skills to help them protect the outdoors places they use and care about. The organization, Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, works with the country’s land management agencies, in school systems and with many other outdoor groups to teach Leave No Trace skills to those who love nature and spend time outdoors.

Learning and practicing Leave No Trace enhances your outdoor ethic.  Here are a few quick tips that will raise your outdoor I.Q. instantly, and will help you protect your natural world.

Know before you go:

  • Get muddy: A giant mud puddle in the middle of your trail? Get muddy and walk right through it to avoid trampling and the loss of the important plans and small trees living along our trails.

  • Trash your trash: Put litter—even crumbs, peels and cores—in garbage bags and carry it home or throw it in trash receptacles. Extra food, even apple cores, can do great damage to wildlife.

  • Rule of thumb: Extend your arm and thumb in front of you and close one eye. As you view wildlife—deer, wild turkey, a rabbit—you should be able to fully cover the animal’s image with your thumb. If you can still see it, you are too close!

  • The burning issue: Burning trash and leftover food in your campfire attracts animals and releases harmful chemicals into the air.