Carbondale's community supported, weekly newspaper

Considering sustainable uses on our public lands

Sections: News Published

By Sue Gray

Sopris Sun Contributor

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What did you do last weekend? That’s
a common question in these parts, which is often answered with a list
of outdoor activities, no matter what the season.

There are now more backcountry
recreation options than ever: camping, climbing, cycling, fishing,
hiking, horse packing, hunting, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling,
trail riding and wildlife viewing to name a few.

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With so many locals and visitors
enjoying public lands in so many ways, it’s important that everyone
do their part to minimize the impact they make on habitat and

Most users of public lands know and
observe the “pack it in, pack it out” rule — whatever you
brought with you, you take back with you. This has reduced the
backcountry litter problem considerably since the concept was
introduced in the 1970’s.

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During the environmental movement of
the 1960s and 1970s, two other phrases were commonly used to remind
people how to treat the backcountry and wilderness areas responsibly:
“leave no trace” and “tread lightly.” These phrases are now
the names of organizations that continue to teach responsible and
sustainable backcountry practices.

These seven principles are from the
Leave No Trace website are:

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• Plan ahead and prepare: Poorly
prepared people, when presented with unexpected situations, often
resort to high-impact solutions that degrade the outdoors or put
themselves at risk. Proper planning leads to less impact.

• Travel and camp on durable
surfaces: Damage to land occurs when surface vegetation or
communities of organisms are trampled beyond repair. The resulting
barren area leads to unusable trails, campsites and soil erosion.

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• Dispose of waste properly: Though
most trash and litter in the backcountry is not significant in terms
of the long term ecological health of an area, it does rank high as a
problem in the minds of many backcountry visitors. Trash and litter
are primarily social impacts that can greatly detract from the
naturalness of an area. Further, backcountry users create body waste
and waste water that requires proper disposal.

• Leave what you find: minimize
site alterations, such as digging tent trenches, hammering nails into
trees, permanently clearing an area of rocks or twigs, and removing

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• Minimize campfire impacts:
Because the naturalness of many areas has been degraded by overuse of
fires, seek alternatives to fires or use low-impact fires. (ALWAYS
know and observe fire bans and restrictions).

• Respect wildlife: Minimize impact
on wildlife and ecosystems. Don’t approach, chase, feed or pick up

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• Be considerate of other visitors:
Following hiking etiquette and maintaining quiet allows visitors to
go through the wilderness with minimal impact on other users.

Tread Lightly! Is a non-profit
organization managed and financed by Ford Motor Company, Toyota and
others. It’s mission is to teach motorized vehicle users to
practice minimal impact on public lands. The following three tips are
from the Tread Lightly! website:

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1. Travel responsibly on land by
staying on designated roads, trails and area. Go over, not around,
obstacles to avoid widening the trails. Cross streams only at
designated fords. When possible, avoid wet, muddy trails. On water,
stay on designated waterways and launch your watercraft in designated

2. Avoid sensitive areas on land such
as meadows, lakeshores, wetlands and streams. Stay on designated
routes. This protects wildlife habitats and sensitive soils from
damage. Don’t disturb historical, archeological or paleontological
sites. On water, avoid operating your watercraft in shallow waters or
near shorelines at high speeds.

3. Do your part by modeling appropriate
behavior, leaving the area better than you found it, properly
disposing of waste, minimizing the use of fire, avoiding the spread
of invasive species and repairing degraded areas.

Know more

Want to do more in order to protect our
wilderness and public lands? Two local organizations offer
opportunities to donate money and time.

The Wilderness Workshop is “the
conservation watchdog of nearly three million acres of public lands
in western Colorado.” Their mission is to defend public lands from
harmful development, protect and restore habitat, and educate the
public about the importance of wilderness preservation.

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers
provides the community with opportunities to participate in trail
building and restoration projects, planting wetlands, removing
invasive species, and refurbishing historic sites.

Responsible stewardship of the land
benefits plant and animal life, and provides satisfying recreational
opportunities for generations to come. For all of us who live in
areas heavily dependent upon outdoor recreation tourism, protecting
our public lands also helps create a sustainable economy.


Leave No Trace

Tread Lightly!

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers,

PO Box 1341, Basalt, CO 81623

Wilderness Workshop, 963-3977

P.O. Box 1442, Carbondale, CO 81623