You may have seen the recent reports about the National Parks. With the partial government shutdown, many National Park Service employees are on furlough and unable to maintain the parks. Images of overflowing trash and damaged campsites serve as a reminder of the importance of outdoor ethics. Here are 5 ways to protect any of your favorite parks so they can be enjoyed for years to come.
Leave No Trace
Leave no trace is the founding principle of outdoor ethics. Never litter, and always leave the park just as you found it. Observe, but don’t touch, historical artifacts. Leave rocks, shells, or plants just as you found them. It can be tempting to take a small piece of nature as a souvenir, but doing so can have a lasting impact. Be mindful that you may be impacting the park in ways you haven’t realized before. For instance, some beauty products and clothing contain glitter, which contributes microplastics to the environment.
Observe wildlife from a distance, but don’t approach or follow. Never feed animals, it endangers their health and ability to survive in the wild. Properly secure your food and trash.
Protect water by camping 200 feet away from water bodies. Minimize campfire impacts by keeping the fire small, and always put it completely out and spread the ash when you are done. If possible, use a camping stove or candle lantern as alternatives. Limit noise pollution by keeping music volumes low or using personal headphones. Better yet, let nature be your camping soundtrack.
Lend a Helping Hand
As you enjoy the great outdoors, pick up any litter you might see along the way and properly dispose of it. If you’d like to do more, contact your local park to see if there are volunteer opportunities.
Invasive plants endanger native species and are very costly to control. Help scientists track invasive species by recording their location with the I’ve Got 1 app. It’s easy and effective. It allows scientists and land managers to facilitate Early Detection and Rapid Response programs (EDRR). EDRR programs help stop or control an invasive species before it becomes an unmanageable problem.
What do you do to leave no trace and practice outdoor ethics? Remember, every small action makes a difference for the environment and future generations.