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In the parent thread Old Grey Eagle and others have raved about how great a thing leave no trace has been. I simply do not see it that way. Living where I do surrounded by wild lands including wilderness. I see LNT as pandering to the environmental extremist movement. The wild places around me are heavily used including the wilderness areas. LNT preaches to not leave a courtesy stack of firewood at a camp site. Something that once was a thoughtful practise. Where fires are allowed I do not see that as a bad thing to do. I feel the same about some camp improvements. To me there is nothing special about 7 rules when a simple sentence will work. Take only pictures, leave only footprints IMHO just about covers it. Removing evidence of our existence is overboard. That said I am not in favor of ditching of tents or otherwise causing damage.


I am in support of taking care of our resources so that they will be there for future generations. When my Troop goes camping we bring home more trash than we generated, same as my Troop did when I was a Scout. If other Scouts and troops are not doing the same an "innovation" of LNT is not going to make them do so. More requirements for advancement will not either. Leaders might simply sign off or around.

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Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv credits LNT with chasing kids out of the woods, where they build tree forts and such.


Likewise I often hear LNT arguments ("300 feet? Bush whacking? We must travel and camp only on hard surfaces!"), as excuses for dumbing the Boy Scout program down to the Cub Scout level.


Bah, humbug!


Yours at 300 feet,





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Now, I'm not sure I have a good sampling of current practices, so I could be mistaken about this. I was a Scout about a hundred years ago, and have recently returned as a Tiger Den Leader. So my recent experience with camping and outdoor activities has been Cub Scout activities at Council facilities. My experience from the "olden days" was Boy Scout activities, not necessarily at council facilities. So maybe that explains the following observation.


But from what I've been able to see so far, we did a better job of "leaving no trace" back before those words were invented. These days, we don't seem to do as good a job of "policing the area" as when I was a Scout. And we seem to generate a heckuva lot more trash these days, although we dutifully put half of it in the "recycling" bin rather than in the other dumpster.


I never did really see much point in digging a trench around the tent. I never bothered, but these days, I'm refraining from doing so out of respect for the environment. Back when I was a Scout, the reason I didn't do it is because I was lazy. :)


Again, maybe things are different at Boy Scout camp. But I have this nagging suspicion that I actually left less of a trace back in the day.

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Sorry if you see it as pandering I see taking care of our remaining wilderness areas as a good thing


clem, if you "don't do as good a job policing" is that LNT's fault or your units?


Kudu, I would have thought you would embrace LNT. One principle is to break groups up into smaller units (like patrols) and have those units camp far away from each other to minimize impact (like, I dont know, 300 feet?) and minimize travel between the groups (like, hey teacher leave those kids alone... all in all... oops distracted)


I don't know anyone who says you can't camp in the woods, just don't make it reminescent of Sherman's march to the sea (for you Pack)(This message has been edited by OldGreyEagle)

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Yep, LNT is a new ethic. It's different than what us old farts used to do when dug trench latrines through the cryptogam. And it is hard for old dogs to learn new tricks.


Of course, when we were growin' up there were a lot fewer people in da country, it took a long time to get to places so yeh didn't get out as much or as far, and yeh had far fewer people visiting both da frontcountry and the backcountry.


Times change. Conditions change. Ethics change. When I was growin' up, no one wore their seatbelts either.


LNT is not connected to any environmentalist group or lobby. If someone tells yeh it is, they're not well informed. Their major sponsors are the outdoor industry: L.L. Bean, REI, Coleman, Eureka, etc. It's affiliated with the National Park and Forest Service, and groups like NOLS and Outward Bound that do the kinds of things scouting does for adults instead of kids. It's a group made up of our fellow outdoor enthusiasts.


Now let's talk turkey (with stuffing, yummm...)


I don't go into the backcountry for an "improved" campsite. I go into the backcountry to get away from civilization and its improvements. When some tom-fool goes and "improves" a backcountry campsite with a fire ring and a stack of logs (now rotting) it means they went and trashed a place I had been fond of. Doesn't matter that they were well-meaning. If I don't take down all their "improvements" and remove da evidence of their discourtesy, I know by the next year there will be more damage and two more fire rings nearby. Some beautiful areas I remember as a kid are now pretty close to charred earth. "Loved to death".


Back in the day when we paddled river corridors, there weren't many of us. Yeh could do the cathole crapper routine along the narrow stretches of shoreline in the canyon. Nowadays, there are a half-dozen full time commercial outfitters on many rivers, and the land can't take that kind of load. Try havin' 50,000 people take a dump in your yard. So we have to use groovers and carry out the waste.


One of my favorite trails not too far away has been overrun by mountain bikers, eh? They take only pictures and leave only tire prints. But they've left so many of 'em that it's become a real erosion problem. Yeh see that on lots of foot paths, eh? People leavin' footprints that cut the switchbacks, or widen the trail because they can't possibly get their boots muddy.


Da frontcountry camps are even worse sometimes. Hard to find ones that aren't denuded by lots of bonfires. And then when folks can't find downed wood they start hackin' at trees. A recent survey in da east of campgrounds used by youth groups (primarily scouts) showed extensive tree damage. And it seems like we're addicted to burnin' garbage in da fires, despite instruction (and in some cases, regulation) not to.


LNT is meant to be a program that helps all wilderness users think differently, and more responsibly, about their wilderness use. It's not directed at scouts in particular, any more than "give a hoot, don't pollute!" and smoky da bear are. But just like those things, eh? It's somethin' that as responsible, ethical wilderness users we should be on the forefront of.




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You can pull apart and complain about the various pieces of the LNT program, but taken together the 7 principles work to protect both the natural resource and user. And honestly - the program works! Too much of our nation's public lands are loved to death. A little less impact on the land is not a bad thing.


People go where they are comfortable and usually there are a lot of other people there too. The newer Front Country LNT program helps people deal with the basics of stuff like dog poop, or throwing trash away. Common sense really.


You can still build forts etc. but do it where the land will heal when you are gone. Hard surfaces could be grassy areas, sandy stream beds etc.


THE most important principle of the Leave No Trace program is Plan Ahead and Prepare. Which sounds sort of scout like to me.


LNT is a GREAT program. It saves lives and protects our countries natural resources. And yes, I am an LNT Master Educator!!!!



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LNT is great when it is understood and applied correctly. It can be a loopy and irratating thing when it is not rightly understood and applied.


Quite frankly there are lot of wrong ideas about what LNT requires in various situations, which is itself a problem since LNT is a set of principles or guidelines, not hard and fast rules carved in stone.


We hear all sorts of crazy ideas about LNT at our long term council camps, everything from people thinking they need to camoflage their tents to people telling their Scouts not to walk in the same place twice to others wanting to put down board walks to perserve the ground. Clearly these people not only received a poor LNT education, but also fail common sense 101.


The case of leaving a campsite better than you found it does not necessarily go away with LNT. It just means that for a pristine backcountry camp, you don't make permanent changes, instead you take extra time to fluff the grass, find all the bits of trash (even those others left) etc. If you are at an established camp site, then building a single, permanent fire ring can in fact be the right thing to do even considering LNT, it just depends on the circumstances.


As for cutting live wood, I don't know of any Boy Scouts that think that is OK. Sounds like the bone headed thinking I have seen in certain non-Scout groups and (sadly) among Cubs (particularly non-leader parents, saw a Cub parent using a double headed axe at night once while the cubs were running all around him and no axe yard boundary, kept wondering if he would split open his own head or one of the cubs). Plus we all know green wood doesn't burn very well, so it isn't a good idea in any case. Not to mention it is illegal on many types of public lands.

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My thought when I first heard about LNT principles in detail, believe it or not is was May 2009 at a Cub campout, my thought was " gee this is what the BSA has been doing for a long time already." A lot of the LNT principles were done by my troop growing up, and it was called "common sense."


Now I do admit, I have seen some shocking things with scouts and leaving their campsites wrecks. I've worked to many summer camps and district/council events otherwise..

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LNT is very important in preserving our rapidly depleting wilderness resources like it or not. I agree with Beavah and OGE on this one 100%.

Clem maybe in your troop LNT stands for "Lazy Notwilling Troop" not a good message from you to pass on to your troop, you are the leader and set the way by example good or bad.

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I'm mostly with Beav and OGE on this one too - the only caveate I would add is that often LNT is not applied correctly in the correct setting. Overzealous types can (and do) attempt to apply backcountry and frontcountry guidelines to well established camping areas and that just doesn't work. Some examples I can think of:


1) do not leave firewood or an established fire ring at a backcountry campsite. For the most part the answer is YES. But, if you are, for instance, at Northern Tier - you can only camp in designated campsite areas on the topo maps within the boundry waters bi-national park. If you happen to have a couple extra logs you didn't burn, WHY would you not leave them by the campfire ring (the one and only one allowed that you can use for a given site) so the campers that come behind you will have less gathering to do. Now, you do not go out of your way to stack up a 1/2 season worth of firewood, but it makes sense to leave it be. It also makes sense to reuse tent sites so as to limit impact to multiple grass areas within these camps. The same does not apply to an off trail, true backcountry camp - in which case most parks require NO open fires and pack stoves only to cook and heat.


2) Bushwhacking - again, for the most part, stick to established trails. Then again, one cannot GET to the "diving board" off Half Dome without a little off-trail travel. However, if and when you DO go cross country off a trail, you need to take steps to minimize your impact to the area. Doesn't mean you can't do it - just know how to do it in a wise manner.


3) Policing up camp should be a given. Even with our cubs, we walk the campsite at arms length in one direciton, then at a 90 degree direction a second time from our previous police call. I usually have a token prize for the cub who picks up the most trash on the police call (candy or gum). Usually we get one or two cubs that ask about WHY they have to pick up trash that they didn't leave (i.e. old faded wrapper, can or juice box) - its a great teaching moment about "leave it better than you found it" - which is what I believe LNT was called when I was a lad.


4) Sterilizing your backcountry campsite - well um OK, I guess. For starters, I don't use wood fires, so the idea of speading the ash is kind of silly to me (unless it is the remains of your old uncle who loved to hike). If you are camping correctly, there should be very little to "sterilize" when you leave. Unless you have been in place for multiple nights (not likely many folks spend more than 1-2 in the same backcountry campsite), you really don't need to fix the grass, etc.. because your site will spring back within 24-48 hours (less with some moisture and sun) anyways. The only thing in LNT I agree with on this one is the sprinkling of your bio-soap on a non-vegatative area away from water sources, that makes sense.


The biggest LNT is to learn PORTION SIZE to minimize dishwater and uneaten leftovers, OR be prepared to pack it back out with you. Planning is key regarding both food in and "food out" so to speak. Many heavily travelled areas require wag-bagging of human waste. Should see the crapper cans - wag-bag trash deposit points, on most major trails around Mt. Ranier in Washington. Funny at first thought, but it has kept areas open that would have required closures due to contaimination otherwise.


One other learning bit (a big one for most scouters) - size of fire matters. For some reason, us city folks like to build the largest burning man complex we can. Many times a very small fire will do much better to cook on and to keep you warm. My scoutmaster used to tell us the Indians would laugh at the white man because, "we build small fire to keep warm and huddle close. White man builds big fire - burns his face and freezes his ***(butt)" - my SM was part Souix.


Only thing I'm still confussed about with LNT - what is the thinking on urine? Can you / should you go on the ground, or should you wag it out too? What are the environmental implications from urine on the ground? Anyone have a good answer to that one?

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Good scouts were practicing LNT before LNT was cool. And well before the LNT cottage industry of today existed.


"Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints" is an old scout axiom. The guidelines? A good patrol leader taught their new scouts over the course of their first camp out through actual practice.


As a scout of the funky '70s, we refrained from trenching and sweeping ground cover away, took great pains to disperse dishwater properly, etc.--check out the fieldbook from that era, the emphasis on respecting the earth is quite strong.


So here comes LNT...and like many programs that exist today, it's nothing more than the "bureaucratization" of simple precepts.


Other than a few modern twists like packing out your used TP, you can find the guiding principles of the LNT program in the scout handbooks and field books of the early '70s onward.


It's a modern but distressing trend, this mad desire to develop detailed programs for every aspect of the scouting experience.


The scout oath and law, if instilled properly, well encompasses LNT and many other rule-heavy programs.


As a staff member at a very spartan camp in Alaska, our camp director told each camper at the opening fire that the only rules for the week were the scout oath and law. That's it. We have very very very few problems of any kind over the three summers I worked there.


Scouts can grasp and apply big principles. We just rarely give them a chance. Instead, we stifle these finer moments under a blizzard of lectures and rules.

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