By Jonathan Olivier
Fall is a pleasurable time of year for recreating outdoors around Baton Rouge, with usually mild temperatures and the occasional tree sporting bright foliage.
As hunters, hikers and fisherman make their way into the backcountry in search of game or just some peace and quiet, reducing their impact on nature by following Leave No Trace principles can have a positive result miles away, benefiting the capital area and the state as a whole.
“I think it’s important for everyone to educate themselves about Leave No Trace because it’s really something that is going to help them in every way of their life,” said Amanda Nichols, BREC naturalist. “Once you learn about what Leave No Trace really is and start adopting practices, you have a cleaner city and environment to live in.”
The Seven Principles
Leave No Trace started as a mantra of conservationists in the 1960s advocating for people to recreate responsibly in the backcountry, meaning to lessen human impact on nature. In the years that followed, the idea grew into tangible form and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, a non-profit organization, was headquartered in Boulder, Colo. in 1994 to advocate responsible recreating.
The core of Leave No Trace is the Seven 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 other visitors.*
When a hiker decides to stay on trail rather than disturb adjacent vegetation by blazing a new path, or when a hunter picks up used shotgun hulls after shooting at a group of ducks, Leave No Trace is at work.
Connected by Water
Though the hiker or hunter may not notice at the time, picking up litter in Louisiana waterways is crucial.
“Louisiana is connected by its water,” Nichols said. “That means everything is connected. If you throw trash somewhere, it’s going to end up somewhere else. Every time it floods…(trash) washes in and when the flood recedes it stays.”
Litter is perhaps the most obvious human impact in Louisiana, visible along waterways, highways and wooded areas near urban sprawl. Nichols attributes the issue to a culture that’s been slow to see that small actions by a few can reverberate and compound an environmental issue dramatically.
“I’m not picking on fisherman, but you’ll see some leaving behind Styrofoam coolers and cans,” Nichols said. “Some will be sitting there fishing, and trashing the (water) they are fishing in.”
To help curb further degradation of Louisiana’s forested and developed areas alike, Nichols and BREC employ Leave No Trace principles at outdoor adventure camps and other events, occasionally with the help of Leave No Trace state advocates for Louisiana, Barrett Kennedy and Peggy Reily.
Kennedy and Reily have traveled to more than 20 states teaching the principles of Leave No Trace. The Baton Rouge residents also pitch in to assist local groups such as the Baton Rouge chapter of the Sierra Club or the Bayou Manchac Group with environmental stewardship initiatives, while teaching Leave No Trace principles locally.
“If you love (the environment) you have a responsibility to contribute to the preservation of it,” Kennedy said. “It’s promoting the stewardship that will preserve not only our opportunity to enjoy these places and this rich heritage, but also to ensure that our children learn how to protect those same values and to ensure that it’ll be there for them and their children to enjoy, as well.”
While the principles Kennedy and Reily teach primarily apply to backcountry areas, Leave No Trace has evolved to include all areas humans are present outdoors, even in developed areas, Kennedy said.
“What we use to say was backcountry ethics, and now we say from backyard to backcountry,” he said. “Leave No Trace encompasses once you go outside (and) leave your backdoor.”
Frontcountry outdoor ethics apply to car campers and day hikers, but are practical to every day life, with a focus on picking up trash, managing pets responsibly and generally leaving nature as it was before.
Nichols expressed a similar sentiment, adding: “It’s a way of life. It means recycling, not littering…it’s all these little tiny things when added together makes a huge difference. A lot of people associate (Leave No Trace) with national parks and places on vacation, and don’t think about that it also (applies) to where you live. It doesn’t matter where you are.”
*The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org