Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Leave No Trace for Hunters

Cloud Peaks (Courtesy William Matthews)
The fog was beginning to clear, revealing a meadow surrounded by snow-covered peaks. A light breeze stirred a nearby patch of aspen in full autumn color. Last night’s freeze had left delicate patterns on the grass and the needles on the pine and spruce trees. Occasionally, the frozen stillness was interrupted by birdsong. 

As the sun appeared over the mountains, the valley was suddenly brilliant with light. The sun climbed higher, warming my cold fingers and toes. I could hear the sound of rippling water.

I was waiting for the bull to lead his harem into the open. But where were they? 

My eyes were drawn to the stream. What I saw wasn’t an elk. It was an abandoned campsite. A fire ring full of melted aluminum cans, Styrofoam, plastic bottles, and partially-burned logs smoldered only inches from the crystal clear waters of the stream. More cans, food scraps, and other trash were scattered over the heavily-trampled wildflowers. The smell of human waste hung in the air. I realized no elk would come here today.

Courtesy William Matthews
Who would do this? Could people really be this careless?

The truth is any one of us could be the culprit. Even the best intentioned of us can unknowingly cause damage. Often, this damage leads to restrictions or closures on public lands. Fortunately, there is a solution that can both protect natural areas and allow people to enjoy their favorite outdoor places. By practicing the outdoor ethic known as Leave No Trace, outdoor enthusiasts can help ensure the places they love will still be there in the future. Leave No Trace consists of seven principles that help people make good decisions and reduce their impacts, making outdoor experiences a lot more enjoyable.

Seven Principles of Leave No Trace:

Plan Ahead and Prepare
Get information about your hunt area and route from the land manager.
Prepare for bad weather and unsafe road conditions with extra food, clothing, first aid kit and signal mirror.

Camp and Travel on Durable Surfaces
Appropriate vehicle use protects wildlife and wildlife habitat.
Prevent erosion and trail widening by using the existing tread surface.
Place vehicles, camp kitchen, tents and stock on areas where obvious signs of prior use exist.
Camp at least 200’ from watering holes, lakes and streams.

Pack It In, Pack It Out
Pack out everything you brought in with you--spent brass, shotgun shells, cigarette butts, etc.
Keep the wild in wildlife, don’t bury food or leave it behind.

Courtesy Pat Bower
Properly Dispose of Human Waste
Bury human waste in catholes 4-8” deep at least 200’ from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole. Do not leave toilet paper on the ground.
Clean water means better fishing; carry your wash or dish water to your camp.

Leave What You Find
Leave historical or cultural artifacts as you find them.
Use dead and downed trees for poles and hangs; dismantle when finished.
Signs are expensive; please don’t use them to sight-in firearms.

Minimize Use and Impact of Fires
Stoves are often the best option. Campfires, fire rings and wood collection can scar the backcountry.
Collect only dead and downed wood or bring your own.

If you are interested in learning more about Leave No Trace or becoming a trainer, go to https://lnt.org/about and contact the Center or your State Advocate. 

 Enjoy the hunt!

Sara Evans Kirol 
Trails/Special Uses
Forest Service
Bighorn National Forest

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