The Importance of Leave No Trace Principles


The seven principles of Leave No Trace form an ethic to guide any of your wilderness and backcountry adventures. When you head out into the forest, mountains, ocean or plains, follow the principles: plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others. It seems straightforward when you break it down. But why are these principles so important? Here are a few of the ways regenerative tourism and LNT intermingle.

Reduce Impact on Wild Spaces

The intention behind the LNT principles is to reduce the impact that you have as you move through the backcountry and frontcountry, too. Traveling and camping on durable surfaces, leaving what you find, disposing of waste, minimizing campfire impacts and respecting wildlife are the most obvious steps to decrease your impact out on the trail or in the campground.

But planning ahead and preparing lowers the chance that you’ll get into a sticky situation that might require a resource-heavy rescue, and it means you’re more likely to have the proper gear that can minimize the effect you have on the environment. Preparing might mean looking at a map so you don’t get lost. It could include taking a wilderness first aid training so you’re better able to help out your group members in a pinch or maybe even just remembering to buy reef-safe sunscreen before a trip.

And being considerate of others can sometimes be overlooked in heated debates over campsites, blasting music, or other behaviors. But making the outdoors a welcoming place for all who use it can only benefit everyone in the forest, on the trail, and beyond.

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Recreationists Become Stewards

Ways of giving back, big and small, are an important part of being a steward for the places we love. For 25 years, the Leave No Trace nonprofit has been pursuing its mission of “ensuring a sustainable future for the outdoors and the planet” using the power of education, science, and stewardship. But the concept has been around a lot longer.

Anyone can put on a pair of hiking boots and hit the trail as a recreationist. But becoming an active conservationist is the next step in a lifetime of stewardship and giving back to the planet.

Solve Problems in the Natural World

Leave No Trace is designed to solve problems. Some of these include trashed landscapes, polluted water, lack of diversity in the outdoors, troubled wildlife, uncontrolled fires, eroded trails, and overcrowded parks and natural areas. This might seem like a lot to tackle, and it is.

But the ecosystems we visit on a hike or traverse on a bike ride or backpacking trip don’t begin and end at the trailhead. All of these systems are connected, and they all tie back into the day-to-day life of every person on the planet. A pile of dog poop left on the side of a trail might not seem like a big deal, but when the snowmelt carries that contamination downstream into our drinking water supply, a single action can have ripple effects.

These seven principles of Leave No Trace are more than just a framework for how to exist outside. Join us at Starry Night Lodging in lessening our impact and embracing the LNT ethic.