Are Leave No Trace Principles Effective? Essay

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Are Leave No Trace Principles Effective?

Leave No Trace is philosophy of seven concepts that help minimize human recreational impact on wild lands. As wilderness recreation has become more popular, and the National Wilderness Preservation System has increased its wilderness lands from 9.1 million acres in 54 wildernesses in 1964 to 104 million acres in 628 wildernesses in 19991, the need for guidelines to help reduce degradation of these lands has become increasingly important. In 1979 Jim Bradley wrote about the need for an educational approach for managing recreation impacts instead of regulations that antagonize the public rather than win their support2. Teaching good practices is more effective than imposing strict regulations
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Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow. These are generally areas with less life and organic material. Obtaining information about the location of fragile areas or how to identify mating, nesting and spawning areas is useful and important for protecting these areas. Generally, if there is a trail, stay on it. If there are established campsites, camp there. If not, camp a good distance away from other tents, cook a good distance away from your tent, and leave backpacks leaning against trees or rocks a good distance away from your tent (make sure all food is stored properly so as not to attract animals!). These practices help minimize the effects of trampling in one area.

If you are traveling through pristine wild lands with no trail, spreading out is often an effective way of minimizing repeated impact on one path. Traveling off trail might not be appropriate at all in certain circumstances such as in Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina where Golden Mountain Heather grows on a few rocky ledges, but does not grow anywhere else in the world3. Research shows that trampling causes a curvilinear response between the amount of trampling and damage to vegetation and soil. For example, on campsites in Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, 95% of the total loss of tree seedlings and 61% of the increase in soil
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