Leaving No Trace: Reducing Your Impact on the Outdoors

outdoors leave no trace

Bigfoot’s been doing it for years: hulking around in the backcountry and leaving no trace for people to find. Rob Stephens wants to encourage kids and their adults to be more like Bigfoot. Rob is a volunteer, educator and Arkansas State Advocate with the Leave No Trace organization. “Leave No Trace is NOT a collection of DO’S and DON’Ts,” Rob says, but instead “a way to teach skills for reducing your impact in the outdoors. We want to inspire people to protect out public lands and learn more about the science behind conservation.”

For instance, do you think it’s OK for kids to cut from one part of the trail to the other to get in front of everyone on a hike?
Should you throw you food and snack wrappers into the camp fire?
Is it OK to break branches off a tree?
Should you feed the squirrels?

It all started in 1987 when the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management created a pamphlet called “Leave No Trace Land Ethics” with guidelines about how people should behave in the wilderness.
Now, the “Leave No Trace for Outdoor Ethics” organization has grown and provides training and education as well as doing important research about the environment.
Rob suggests that before kids go out into nature this summer to camp, swim and enjoy the outdoors, they learn and practice these 7 Leave No Trace Principles:

Backcountry (backpacking, multiday treks)
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Travel and Camp on Durable Surface
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave What You Find
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Respect Wildlife
Be Considerate of Others

Frontcountry (picnic areas, city parks & kids)
Know Before You Go
Choose the Right Path
Trash Your Trash
Leave It As You Find It
Be Careful With Fire
Keep Wildlife Wild
Share Our Trails

Why is “Leave No Trace” important? Arkansas is known as the Natural State because of our many outdoor recreational opportunities, from trails and parks to the Buffalo National River. “Every year more and more people are taking advantage of these opportunities,” Rob says. “Everyone wants to keep these special places clean and free of negative impacts but they might need some new skills to achieve that goal.”
As people visit parks and wilderness areas, the negative impacts add up. It’s not just one piece of trash or one trampled flower, it’s the cumulative effect of thousands of impacts that happen over time that will destroy our beautiful natural areas.

Leave No Trace teaches kids as young as 5 years old how to care for the outdoors through fun stories, activities and games.

“Kids get it!” Rob points out, because the program is about being respectful. “They understand classroom manners and the Golden Rule. Most importantly the kids have fun while learning!”
The Leave No Trace for Every Kid program can help kids like you to learn to protect nature by doing things like trashing your trash, picking up after your dog and being respectful of wildlife. You might discover it at a summer or day camp. Or you can ask a State Park interpreter, or learn about programs near you by visiting the website: LNT.org
Or their Arkansas Facebook page: www.facebook.com/LNT4AR/
The most important message of Leave No Trace is to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, and try to eliminate your impact when you have fun outdoors. Be more like Bigfoot!

If you’d like to read some of our awesome outdoor safety tips, click here!