I hate to say it, but I have a nagging feeling that the entire Leave No Trace movement is dead. DOA. No one except the Boy Scouts of America seems to teach it anymore and the only mention you ever see of Leave Not Trace is when the LNT principles are printed by outdoor companies on their gear in an effort to greenwash their corporate image.
While I believe in the outdoor ethical principles advocated by the Leave No Trace organization and use them personally, I don’t believe that the vast majority of people who enjoy outdoor recreation in the United States even consider or give thought to consequences of overuse impacts on our natural lands.
If you hike, backpack, and camp, surely you’ve experienced resistance to:
- Putting dogs on leashes so they don’t harass other hikers by barking and jumping on them or running after wildlife.
- Dog owners who refuse to pack their dog’s poop out of city and state parks or national parks and forests and leave baggies of the stuff on the sides of trails for others to pick up.
- People who create huge new campsites besides trails and along stream banks instead of using sites that have already been created and impacted.
- Campers who need to have a campfire every night and strip all of the living trees nearby for usable wood to burn, even if its green (and won’t burn).
- People who jump in ponds, lakes, or streams wearing suntan lotion and DEET insect repellent or insist that it’s ok to wash their frying pans in lakes if they use biodegradable campsuds.
- Limiting the ever-growing crowds of hikers and trail angels on the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail who are loving it to death.
- People who won’t mute their cell phones when hiking or camping to prevent disturbing other visitors who only want to hear natural sounds or play music from portable speakers at campsites in the middle of the forest.