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desertrat77 wrote: "Hyperbole is the right word, though, to describe how some LNT faithful deliver their program. Disagree with a tenet, and one is lectured like a Tent Trencher, or a Bough Cutter."


Yeah, I know a couple of those. LNT is a religion, and if you question anything about it, you're a heretic and should be burned at the stake -- but only in an established fire ring with sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand. Even an innocent question like, "If LNT is an 'ethic,' why is it written in the form of rules?" means that you need to be sent to an LNT re-education camp. These folks do not serve the cause well.


I agree that we already had the 'ethic' in Scouting, but LNT wasn't developed specifically for Scouting. What Scouting needed was not the ethic but a set of techniques that took us from our old style of _using_ and enjoying nature's resources (and then cleaning up after ourselves) to enjoying nature without using many of its resources and without having to do much cleaning up. LNT's value to Scouting is in providing those techniques.


That's not to say that LNT techniques and suggestions are perfect, but we do need something more than just the 'ethic' to guide our actions. Long before LNT, we had specific ways of doing things -- just look at an old Boy Scout Handbook. Many of those old ways are 'out' and LNT techniques are 'in.' It doesn't really matter (despite the views of the LNT apostles) whether LNT is better or worse than the old ways; LNT techniques fit the long-term Boy Scout conservation ethic and are what today's society and land managers want.


Dan K.

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Unfortunately the folks that Dan describes are the ones that ruin it for me and many. I've met a few like that. Heck I was amazed when i was told that there are folks out there who do not consider Pinchot a true environmentalist because he believed in using natural resources, until I met a few.

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LNT is the wilderness version of political correctness


Nah, it's da wilderness version of the Golden Rule. Do unto others and all that.


The reason the ethic is to leave things like feathers, and antlers, and wild flowers, and old artifacts in place is the Golden Rule reason, eh? So that others can enjoy 'em too! That girl scout group hiking up the trail behind us would also be as interested as our boy scouts at finding a set of antlers. That older couple out for a late spring weekend deserve the same vista of wild flowers that da Flaming Monkey patrol came across and thought was so "awesome."


Yah, sure, so long as da other 20,000 visitors to the area that month don't set about picking the wildflowers the way we did, they'll grow back next year. But maybe if they all acted the way we did, they wouldn't. As Boy Scouts, we should be the best example of good wilderness users.


Of course, this is no different than our older ethic of "take nothing but pictures".


Lots of folks here seem to be objecting to things that LNT is not, because they've somehow confused LNT with PETA or Earth First. Da folks at NOLS who developed LNT are avid backcountry trout fishermen. Nobody at LNT is opposed to hunting as a valid herd management technique and a legitimate outdoor activity (though they'd of course frown on illegal baiting). Yeh won't find any trained LNT advocate suggest wearin' earth-tones during hunting season, or wearing blue-green when sailing on da open ocean.


What LNT does do is go out and research what sorts of practices allow the environment to recover from human wilderness use at least yearly. So they send out folks to do things like look at da long-term impacts of fire rings and human waste disposal. And they survey other wilderness users of all sorts to find out what sorts of things other people find disrupt their own enjoyment of the woods. Did yeh know that 90% of our fellow users of the woods would prefer not to see other folks on their outings? They go into da woods to get away and be on their own.


LNT doesn't lecture "rules." It provides information like that to help us be better users of da wild lands, and better neighbors. If yeh know that the vast majority of fellow hikers are there because they want to be alone to experience da peaceful wilderness, then in courtesy it's best if a group of 20 boy scouts not stop in da middle of the trail for lunch and a round of "The Duke of York". ;) Better to get off trail a ways and save da song for the next Camporee.


So whether it's fire rings or where to stop for lunch, if yeh have the ethic that you want to be a good citizen and preserve the wilderness for others, then LNT provides information on da methods that work best in different areas.




(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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I had been struggling to put into words my thoughts because there were so many, from so many different angles. Beavah pretty much sums up what I'm thinking.


However, I do want to respond to the idea that all we need to do is remember to "be prepared" and to follow outdoor ethics we were all taught. The thing is, you can't be prepared unless you're taught how to prepare, and what to prepare for. You aren't automatically "prepared" when you join the Boy Scouts at age 11 because the motto is "Be Prepared". You don't automatically know outdoor ethics just because you're a member of the BSA. LNT helps us prepare our Scouts, helps us instill those outdoor ethics. They aren't rules, they aren't bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, they aren't political (or environmental) correctness. They are guidelines to help us be better prepared, and be more ethical in the woods. When I've hiked 15 miles into a campsite, I don't want to see that someone has been there before me using a saw on everything in sight. I certainly don't want some clowns to set up near me and start playing a radio loudly. When I leave my campsite in the morning, I hope that if you come across it a few hours later, you'll never know I was there. And trying to justify potentially destructive human activities because animals are worse, that's got to be some of the most arrogant thinking there is. Remind me to tell that Grizzly Bear that is rampaging through your campsite because LNT is hogwash that we're the master.


So why LNT? Apparently, folks have missed that back in the day (I was a Scout in the 70's - and yes, a lot of the LNT stuff is stuff I learned back then), there were less than 10 million people that actually headed into the woods on a regular basis, but the BSA had about 5 million members so it's likely that a large number of people that went into the woods had a pretty well developed sense of outdoor ethics. Today, more than 30 million people are heading into the woods on a regular basis, but we're still at 5 to 6 million members - easy to extrapolate that there are fewer folks gaining a sense of outdoor ethics within their lives on a regular basis. Not only do we need to set the example, we need to understand that we are no longer the biggest example out there.

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Perhaps those who think LNT is just political correctness, start their own outdoor youth program. BSA has adopted LNT as its outdoor ethics. If it doesn't dovetail with your ethics, then perhaps the best step forward is to start your own program. You could call it "Trailblazer Scouts" or "Wilderness Dominator Scouts" or "Wild Warrior Scouts" or "Don't Give a Damn Scouts".

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This was our stuff (in our handbooks), our leader's expertise, our turf - the BSA. We were teaching these outdoor principles (Be Prepared, Outdoor Code) long before LNT became a buzzword or non-profit.


The US Forest Service first attempted to partner with the BSA in developing a national program to teach the growing number of visitors to our National Parks. After all who had the most expertise (years and people) in teaching an outdoor code - the BSA! There were plenty of books on the subject (some ours, some USFS, some others) but teaching growing numbers of wilderness newbies proved challenging.


From "Development of the U.S. Leave No Trace Program:

An Historical Perspective"




" A lack of national leadership, funding, and training had limited the effectiveness of early minimum impact educational efforts in the 1970s and 80s, including a pilot educational effort with the Boy Scouts of America and the Bureau of Land Management in the High Uintas Wilderness area in Utah. By 1990 the clear need for

visitor education, coupled with increasing knowledge about visitor impacts from research, prompted the USFS to approach the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) to develop hands-on minimum impact training..."


Too bad, what could have been! The BSA using the Outdoor Method to teach all Americans. Instead, someone else took our fire and now they are the leaders in teaching the outdoor code.


The LNT apparently has listened to criticism and updated some of their sillier positions (now guidelines) - hiking boot soles, ATV's, trail marking, trekking poles,... even bright colors are now okay with them for "safety reasons"


Maybe they read some of our postings, if so good for them.


Another $0.02







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Well Gern,



As a matter of fact I DO think there is a good deal of liberal/environmental political correctness to the Leave no trace program.


Frankly, there are a very wide variety of different choices about what units include in their program. Units and unit leaders make choices about which programs they wish to include and emphasize in their programs.


Frankly, I've never included the Leave No Trace program in any program activity I've conducted. Being courteous in your outdoor practices is a part of program, but adopting the ideas of this program is certainly not necessary or required.


Sorry I have other fish to fry, or I would if environmentalists hadn't poisoned all the trout in backcountry lakes because they were "non native" species.

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Hey Gern, yeah thanks for that! I see you are tolerant of others views. Folks that have tried to start their own are quickly issued a cease and desist order, thanks to the monopoly Uncle Sam has granted BSA although it seems they want the protection but do not want the other part. Yet this thread is not about Kudu's fight. I'm not saying that we don't need an outdoor ethic. I am saying that we already have one, and have had one since the Outdoor Code became a part of our organization. I have advocated since my youth for low impact camping. I've spent many a night in the wilds without a fire for companionship or to cook my food. I do not pick up every feather and shed that I find and I do not fill my pack or pockets with rocks. I do eat an occasional berry. Learned long ago that picked wild flowers die faster than you can get them to a vase. My point is I do not think we needed to adopt LNT. I think we already had it in not so many words, just not all together.


A sad thing it is but it seems the worst you can do for a pristine area is designate it wilderness. Surely then you will increase visits. Maybe this is just a phenomon of the Pacific Northwest as attested to the Central Cascades and specifically the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Areas folks drive by to get there are not as crowded and actually more wild. As Scouts we do need to set the example. We need an ethic that is not location specific. LNT is a whole learning and teaching system of an ethic. I think we already have and had both of those in place. Tweaks to our teachings to be more evironmentaly friendly could havebeen done without LNT. For example the new latrine trench rather than the old deep hole. We need to remember what it is the boys are looking for when they join. Adding 7 more things to remember is not high on their list. KISS principles tell us that we should perhaps spend the time on giving them an opportunity for the adventure. We could introduce the added 7 principles in passing without making it a central theme of our program. Given a choice I would much rather Scouts learn the Oath and Law and apply those than LNT because by living the former you have most of the latter.

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No matter how you may feel about LNT it does serve a purpose. In my area two county and one state parks will no longer allow scouts into their wilderness areas because of all the trash left and damage done by three troops over the last year. The scouts are now only allowed in the improved campground sites. My crew is still allowed however because we, with another crew, went in and repaired all the damage we could, planted some new trees and plants, restored some habitats, etc. The Head Ranger at each park still are adamant about not allowing boy scouts into these sensitive areas feeling they are too immature and not trained properly concerning these sensitive sites. A lack of LNT training has cost the boy scouts the use of these areas permanently, this is not a question of LNT being a liberal or conservative issue it is the reality of the sensitive and fragile nature of some of our most pristine wilderness areas.

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BadenP - Thanks! You've made my point.


If you teach an UNREALISTIC, OVERBEARING, (May I say ridiculous?) outdoor ethic, it will be ignored. And then you'll have NO outdoor ethic.


The Boy Scouts who got scouting banned from the parks in your area weren't practicing LNT, were they? You can't say that they weren't taught LNT, because it's too deeply embedded in BSA advancement requirements. They just didn't buy into the LNT hyperbole.


Why might kids choose not to buy into LNT?

There are some parts of LNT that flat out don't make sense in all situations, and once an inquisitive young mind identifies the stupidity of the LNT extremes, they are less receptive to the wilderness basics. Sorta like trying to make eveyone drive 55mph on the interstate.


If you keep it simple, to the point where it's easily explained and justified, kids will understand and help you keep the wilderness wild.


The BASICS of wilderness etiquette:

Leave no man made trash.

Try not to damage living plants.

Don't disturb the earth in a way that will promote erosion.


LNT extremes that turn off kids:


I have to crap in a bag? And carry a warm squishy bag of excrement in my pack?

Why can't I scratch a cathole with my boot, and cover my deposit? Won't the plants benefit from the fertilizer?

(Edit: After I visited the BSA site to verify that the LNT principles that I've been turned off by still applied, I see that catholes are now acceptable - 200 feet from water and 6-8 inches deep. And although there are places where it'll be hard to get 200 feet from water (Okeefenokee Swamp, Chattooga River gorge), and an 8 inch deep hole is cutting major tree roots; at least a modicum of moderation is being applied. - JBC)


I can't take home blue-jay feathers, mussel shells, or possum skulls? I just want to help the animals pick up their trash! The kind of souvenirs that kids take home will be seen by more people if they get taken home than if left in the deep woods.


We can't burn our trash in the campfire? What's this bag gonna smell like after three days in my pack? What's my pack gonna smell like?


If we want kids to enjoy camping, we need to resist letting LNT neuter the experience to the point that it's easier to look at close-up images on the Discovery Channel and NatGeo. What's the fun in going where no man has ever gone before, if you can't go there either unless it's a hard packed surface?


(Another edit after reading the actual LNT principles: Burning trash seems to be alright. Leaving UNBURNT trash in the fire pit is a no-no, and I agree with that. Maybe I'm not as opposed to LNT as I thought. Maybe I should be trying to lynch LNT trainers instead? Where DID I leave my pitchfork?)




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Joe Bob


You have missed the point alltogether once again. The old adage "ignorance is bliss" seems to be a fitting response to your post. I could shoot all kinds of holes in your stance but I kinda think you wouldn't be capable of understanding.

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I have to crap in a bag? And carry a warm squishy bag of excrement in my pack?

Why can't I scratch a cathole with my boot, and cover my deposit? Won't the plants benefit from the fertilizer?


Not a LNT principle. Da principle is "Dispose of Waste Properly". In many areas, catholes that are dug properly are an excellent LNT approach. Shallow ones close to water, of course, contaminate the water with all those pesky G.I. bugs that we humans carry. And yah, in a few places like high-traffic river gorges, yeh have to pack it out.


I can't take home blue-jay feathers, mussel shells, or possum skulls?


Yeh never could even under da traditional Boy Scout ethic of "take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints". If da first fellow on the trail grabs the possum skull for himself because it's cool, then none of the other scouts get the fun of discovering it and talkin' about it. Nor does the next troop that comes along, or any of the other visitors. If we want kids to enjoy campin', we can't neuter their experience of da wonders of the outdoors by taking all of it home with us and leavin' sanitized dirt.


But because folks "just don't get it" what yeh see now is more regulation. So collecting natural objects is now prohibited in National Parks and refuges, and requires a permit on many other public lands.


We can't burn our trash in the campfire?


Sure, simple paper will be completely consumed and is OK to burn. Other than that, yeh really never could. Almost all food waste isn't completely consumed, and most other "trash" has so much non-burnable chemical gunk in it as to be a problem. Yeh packed it in full, eh? Are yeh so lazy or out of shape that yeh can't pack it out empty?


And again, if we can't do this by LNT education, it's goin' to happen by regulation. In some states, like mine, it's against state regulations to burn trash in a campfire.


What's this bag gonna smell like after three days in my pack? What's my pack gonna smell like?


Well, if yeh planned ahead and prepared, yeh brought the right amount of food and repacked it so that there was as little trash as possible. It's not goin' to smell like anything. I've carried trash for 3+ weeks in da height of summer, no problem. So have many scouts I know.


What's the fun in going where no man has ever gone before, if you can't go there either unless it's a hard packed surface?


Nuthin' about LNT says yeh have to travel only on hard-packed surfaces. In fact da authors of LNT routinely lead groups in da most remote backcountry. It just says that where yeh can, yeh stick to the trail, or choose your route based on how well it can handle the stresses of your trampling.


And again, if education fails, then regulation is goin' to happen. There are areas in a number of states where off-trail hiking or camping is now prohibited, just because some people were too self-centered to learn how to do it properly without leavin' a mess.


Yah, I don't know if there are renegade LNT trainers out there, eh? I expect so, da same way there are renegade BSA trainers out there. Mostly, LNT is da same wilderness ethic we've always had in Scouting, presented to non-scout outdoors enthusiasts. In some cases, da research has offered updates to our old practices, which don't change our ethic but do change how well we do at it. In some cases, like planning ahead and preparing carefully and minimizing the trash we bring into da field, it's just pushing us not to be lazy sots who come out to the campsite straight from the grocery store with every conceivable package and wrapper, and then feel we have to burn da aluminized mylar pop-tart wrappers in da fire.




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Like JoeBob, I too have heard some funky stuff from "renegade" LNTers, to the point of ridiculousness. And some of the stuff they recommend makes no sense whatsoever. And at least in my neck of the woods, they seem to be the ones doing the promoting of LNT and turning others off of LNT.


I admit the Outdoor Code was not a big deal with my troop as the Oath and Law were, i.e. we used it for opening and closing the troop meetings like we did withthe Oath and Law. But we followed the principles. The only way you could have known we were at a campsite was if A) you saw us there, B) you didn't see any trash in the site, or C) we left a small pile of left over firewood neatly stacked by the firepit.



Upon reflection, I think I am going to review the Outdoor Code next time I work on the CS LNT award.



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Our troop does a canoe trip through Canadian wilderness every few years. It is required to register the specifics of the gear (esp canoe and tent colors and sizes). The rangers prefer bright colors. This is an aid both in finding overdue parties, and keeping track of who is where.

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