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With so many more people using the outdoors and not understanding stewardship of the natural national treasures we possess, I think it's important that there be a standard to teach that is practical and informative.


I also enjoy seeing youth taking the charge on this, sharing their love of the outdoors and how best to preserve it. Recently one of the Venturers from my council was hailed an Outdoor Hero by LL Bean for her dedication to not just teaching LNT, but living it, too.


The youth are the current and future stewards and teachers of the importance of the backcountry classroom, I applaud them for owning LNT and committing it to their lifestyles.

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LNT - overrated! I think not.

Leave No Trace: A Guide to the New Wilderness Etiquette, 2nd ed., by Annette McGivney, is the best source I've found to flesh out the topic. I appreciate, and find it easier to remember something when I know more about a topic - in this case, the principles and recommendations of LNT.

So you can go backpacking, remember to take at least the essentials, spend a reasonably comfortable night, and make it back (without blisters). Great! I'm somewhat impressed. Now do it as a practitioner of LNT (with a good attitude) - that shows some finesse!


Best regards,

and happy trails!

Eagle '77


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In the leave no trace training course I had with Boy Scouts the trainer extrapolated the highly sensitive areas of the desert southwest or the delicate mountain alpine regions with your neighborhood forest. The general training was a scare tactic that if you take a step off the trail the entire ecosystem will fail.


Let's take one of the bigger crimes of leave no trace, making a fire where there was no evidence of one. Let's say that joe hiker has never heard of LNT. Predict the most likely scenario.


Most likely for average hiker:

He will look for a place off the trail because he doesn't want people walking through his camp site. He will seek out a bare spot on the ground. Why? because it is easier to build a fire there. If there are some rocks around he may buffer or ring the spot. Not much in improvements will be made because most of his effort will be better used gathering fire wood. He drags dead branches over and through the evening only uses half. Some thicker limbs are shown with saw marks from his pocket saw. His fire spot is about the size of a toilet seat. The next morning he pours a canteen of water on it and leaves.


To the forest branches have been moved but branches and wind make wood dispersion random. The birds, bugs and forest creatures don't even recognize saw marks. The fire pit is 2 square feet. The forest ecosystem is undaunted by the fire.


Let's say in the local State forest this happens 200 times a year. Thus 400 Square feet of forest floor is compromised each year. This amount is inconsequential to a forest measured in square miles. The dispersed wood has no effect on the ecosystem. The fire zone is recolonized with organic creatures eating the partially burnt wood. Most spots can't even be seen from the highly used hiking path. In all but the most sensitive areas, vegetation returns in about one season.


If the high handed ecosystem collapse does not scare you out of the forest then your presence there will. Your red sweater is a crime against nature, your saw marks on the branches you cut will ruin someone else's vacation. So even if the ecosystem recovers in one to 2 seasons, your visible presence in the forest could ruin another hikers experience for a life time.


Better to just stay home. Let's lock the forest roads and only issue access permits to researchers in the field.







(This message has been edited by Thomas54)

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I have never been to LNT training and I don't intend to start. I have the guidelines in my hand and they are very clear. I learned the principles of LNT long before it was called LNT when I was a Scout back in the 70's. I think back then we called it "don't just clean up the campsite, but leave the campsite better than you found it." I have yet to find an acronym that will fit that phrase :).



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Same for me. The old handbooks and National Park regulations simply covered the common sense parts back before a marketing buzzword, $$ curriculum, website were created.


I mostly endured the LNT evangelists as well-meaning but over-hyping until they started spouting about color-neutral tents...now they are just carpetbaggers to me.


Maybe they can move on to DFD, "Don't Feed Ducks" and the importance of not feeding migrating birds.


My $0.02





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In reply to: Thomas54 "In the leave no trace training course I had with Boy Scouts the trainer extrapolated the highly sensitive areas of the desert southwest or the delicate mountain alpine regions with your neighborhood forest. The general training was a scare tactic that if you take a step off the trail the entire ecosystem will fail."


Not a scare tactic...The entire ecosystem won't "fail", but can be significantly damaged. Cryptobiotic soil crusts, consisting of soil cyanobacteria, lichens and mosses, play an important ecological role. In the cold deserts of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico, these crusts are extraordinarily well-developed, often representing over 70 percent of the living ground cover. Cryptobiotic crusts increase the stability of otherwise easily eroded soils, increase water infiltration in regions that receive little precipitation, and increase fertility in soils often limited in essential nutrients such as nitrogen and carbon.


Just saying...they are pretty darn important and should be protected from disturbance such as trampling by hooves or feet, or driving of off-road vehicles.


Hence the LNT messages provided at your training....








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I'm with Jeffrey H on this one. "LNT" is something I've always done my entire life and the hype everyone uses today is nothing more than announcing to the world that Scouting needs a special program to tell the boys what they should already know.


I've even been known to have my boys clean up the entire park they camped in because it was trashed by previous pseudo-campers. It was no big deal to the boys, and they made a game out of it to see who could collect up the most garbage.


I have cut pit-fires in city parks for the better part of 10 years now and never had anyone complain.


I've never suggested to my boys that they take LNT training, but in everything I do, I develop a respect for the outdoors that the boys all take to heart. They may trash an area when the camp for the weekend, but when we pull out, the place is better than spotless. After only a few trips with the boys, I've never had to remind them to clean up the site.





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Yah, lots of misunderstanding about LNT here, so let me try to explain.


LNT is not a scouting program, eh? It's a program aimed at all outdoor recreationists, not just youth. Folks are exactly right that many elements of it and that the basic ethic has been a part of scouting for decades. In many ways, scouting was one of the pioneers of LNT outdoor ethics. And because of our values and our level of use, we should stay on the forefront of that movement.


LNT is not meant to be bureaucratic or rules-based. It's an educational effort that is designed to avoid having land managers achieve the same ends by creating a lot of bureaucratic regulations which would curtail our more open use of the wilderness. As such, it is failing. Because people, including many scout units, have not voluntarily bought into the ethics and values of LNT, more and more land managers are imposing regulations that heavily impact scouting. The trend toward maximum group sizes smaller than the average troop is continuing.


I don't see how the LNT ethic can be objectionable to scouts and scouters who care about the lands we use, especially given that scouting has been on the forefront of good stewardship for so long. We should be big supporters of LNT's efforts to teach outdoor ethics to other recreational lands users. We should have boys getting trained as trainers to offer sessions to civilians at local parks and forests to spread the word. We should be seen as the LNT organization for young people.


As DeanRx suggests, as an ethic, LNT requires us to adapt our actions to da environment in which we travel. In the deciduous wilderness, we may dig catholes where there is enough biotic soil to break down waste. In river corridors that get too much use, we may have to pack out our poo. In deserts, we may do some form of open deposit so the sun can break down the waste. All that's required is an ethic of learning, eh? Of always trying harder to do the best job we can to preserve and protect da environment we use for others.


Yep, that means at times we learn that stuff we thought was OK really isn't as good as we thought. Some of us used to bring wood from home so as not to be clearin' out da forest near our favorite campsite, now we've learned that that transports invasive critters that cause a lot of damage. So we change our long-time practices because our ethics demand it.


Yep, that means like anyone with sound ethics, we look first at our own practices. Scouts are "hard" users of the land, eh? We tend to have much bigger than average groups, and young folks tend to climb, hack, play, run, stomp, and holler with more gusto and over a wider area than da average user. That means we have a duty to be particularly careful about our LNT practice, and sometimes to make changes. Things that were the "best practice" back in the 70s might no longer be da best practice in 2010, and we have to be open to that.


It should be a game. We as scouters and da kids as scouts should always be learnin' and lookin' for what we can do better. When we depart a camp, we should look around and say "can anyone tell we were here?" "What can we do better to prevent that next time?" If we're goin' to a new area, we should take da time to look up what the best practices are for that area.


In short, we should live up to our own ethics, eh? Not just be content that we were doin' it right back in the 70's, but push ourselves to be on the forefront of what doin' it right looks like in the 20-teens (10's? What do we call this decade anyways?). Da old handbooks aren't enough.


When we look at da new evidence, we learn things that Thomas54 missed. Those 400 square feet he talks about represent only da actual fire pit. But those fire pits attract someone else, and result in trampling and cutting and scavenging all of the downed wood in a much broader area. So for each 2 square feet he talks about, several hundred square feet are directly impacted and even more indirectly. Multiply by 200 and now we're talkin' many, many acres damaged. Now consider that da distribution isn't random, but instead it's confined near rivers and streams. So of the most important and fragile land, a still greater percentage is damaged. Now consider that da fire pit is still in evidence for many years, especially because the damage makes it harder for the area to recover. So add the 200 from this year and last year and the year before that. Pretty soon it's an area that's no longer pristine.


I'm an old fellow, eh? I've seen exactly this happen to dozens of da favorite spots I remember as a younger man. It pains me that I can't share those places with my grandkids because they aren't what they once were. And that should make any of us as scouters who care deeply about our ethics and our young people be willing to work a bit to change our practices without gettin' all defensive. We should be the best example of da LNT ethic, eh? LNT should be able to point to Scouting as the premiere youth organization for outdoor ethics. We should be so good that we go da extra 15 minutes to attend to even da small, picky stuff that other people blow off as unimportant.


Because we believe that ethics are da most important, and livin' up to them is our example to the youth.


And because we don't want the answer to be the imposition of a lot of bureaucratic rules and regulations by land managers that would impact our activities.





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The same weekend that LNT was taught (2nd Weekend of woodbadge) the State forester came out and took us to the Section he did a controlled burn on last month. That is, the surveyor's definition of a section = 1 square mile. I could see a trace!


Bev, just as you have seen the abuse in the forest I have seen and read through the LNT zealots. Don't make a camp fire us a stove. LNT = LDAH (leave dogs at home). Don't wear bright colors it might bother others. Talk in hushed tones.


Be honest with yourself; campfires aren't destroying our wilderness.

Look elsewhere for the problem.



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Well, we can be certain of one thing: As long as everyone is huddled all day in the camp mess hall listening to LNT briefs and WB management theory, the great outdoors will be safe from the perils of hikers walking on soil or a camper picking up dry firewood.

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"And when bears start policing up their poo, and caribou herds refrain from trodding upon delicate flora, perhaps that will be the day I'll give some credence to some of the more extreme tenets of LNT. "


How many bears poo and caribou trod in your delicate backyard flowerbed? How about a deal? You keep your poo in check in their backyard, they will return the favor. I think I can broker that deal.


The biggest misconception of LNT, and Beavah has it right, is it isn't about leaving the place cleaner than you found it, although that is admirable. Its about outdoor ethics so you don't even have to clean it up in the first place.


Oh, and visual and noise pollution count too.

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The more extreme notions of LNT are valid, very much so, in certain conditions and places. If you don't think that is true you have never been in a place that is fragile or delicate in this way. I have, and I have seen what happens when people don't follow LNT.


If you have ever seen the tiny little plants and flowers that make up the groundcover in tundra like conditions at high altitude, you really don't understand just where some of these ideas come from. There are places where one footprint may take a year to regrow, and the footprints of a scout troop may take longer than a life time to grow over.


Those aren't your normal conditions. Nor should we act like the same degree of care is needed in all places and cases.


Yet LNT is meant to be more or less universal, so if it doesn't prepare you for the widest range of possibilities, it isn't doing its job. Where I think it does let us down is in clearly showing how the average Scout unit should apply LNT on average outings of different sorts (which needs to be taylored by area).


Final point, someone mentioned urine. At Philmont this has been an ongoing issue with at different theories holding at different times. Last I heard they supported the idea of "fanning" it to avoid creating salt licks on the trees. At other times the theory has been to use the trees to avoid harming the grasses. Maybe they should alternate from year to year. Who knows. Packing out liquids like that is only logical in certain very particular environments, not common situations.

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The problem with urinating on trees is the salt attracts animals who eat/lick the bark for the salt and hurt the tree. The problem with concentrating the urine on a small patch of grass is the acidic content can burn the plants (check out what my dogs do to my grass). So fanning is preferred. There's no need to pack it out, just don't concentrate it. Better yet, pee on boulders. Lichen free of course!


It really isn't that difficult to always follow the most "extreme" LNT principles. Just requires planning, diligence and decision making.

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