By Sarah Shaffer
In the summer of 2019 I had the opportunity to join a Leave No Trace workshop held by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics Non-Profit agency out of Colorado and sponsored by Subaru. Our local BLM office was kind enough to host this event.
For four hours we learned about ways to minimize our impact on our public lands when we use them. Below are some great tips I learned along with fun videos on how to enjoy our lands without damaging them and possibly even leaving them better than you found them!
- If you have a dog and it poops, as most dogs do, pick it up with a biodegradable bag and throw it into a trash can. Dog poop has a bunch of yucky germs in it, and it won’t decompose properly meaning it will be on the ground for a very long time. That exposes dogs, people and wild animals to all sorts of, scientifically speaking, yucky things: Pet waste adds excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus to the soil and water. These nutrients allow algae blooms to cloud our rivers, lakes and streams and create habitat for invasive weeds to grow.
Although it’s easy for us to say, “Well, it’s just my dog pooping in the woods,” Leave No Trace is about minimizing our cumulative impact. Across the U.S., 83 million dogs produce 10.6 million tons (that’s 21,200,000,000 pounds) of poop every year. That’s a LOT of nutrients.
Here is a a fun, short video on disposing of dog poop properly by Leave No Trace.
- It is better to pack out your food waste instead of throwing it in a campfire or burying it. Why? Critters are capable of picking up the scent of the food and will try to eat whatever you left. This is dangerous for two reasons. One, the food may harm the critter because human food, such as nachos, generally isn’t in a critter’s diet. Two, critters don’t care where their calories come from, so if they learn campers are a good source, they will seek out other campsites, which makes them too familiar with humans, increasing the risk of an attack or the chances that a ranger will have to put them down. In Colorado, bears get a “two-strike” policy, meaning if wildlife officers have to move a bear from a campsite, the next time the bear gets put down.
Other videos and tips for inspiring you to do your best while outdoors:
Hammocks: Did you know that hammock camping can harm trees and plants? Check out this video.
Car Camping: Here is an informative short video on car camping. You may learn a thing or two about minimizing your impact.
Human Poop: Dogs aren’t the only animals that need to poop. This is a nifty tutorial on how to use a W.A.G. bag for those times that you need to poop in the backcountry.