Embrace the 7 Simple Principles of Leave No Trace

Teaching the principles of Leave No Trace to your children can be built into the natural fun of exploring the great outdoors. As you visit national, state, and local parks with your children to hike, fish, picnic, and camp, it is imperative to teach them to not only enjoy nature but to preserve the beauty around them. The seven principles of Leave No Trace are guidelines for everyone to follow so everyone can enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature today, tomorrow, and always.

Embrace The 7 Simple Principles Of Leave No Trace

“The 7 principles of Leave No Trace allow park users to take on a personal role in preserving the outdoor experience for future generations,” says Lydia Austin, the interpretive programs manager for South Dakota’s Custer State Park. “So many people are beginning to visit the outdoors in the last couple of years. That is having a large impact on the parks. If visitors don’t leave plants, rocks, or the outdoors how they found it, there won’t be much left for the future.”

The 7 principles of Leave No Trace are Plan Ahead & Prepare; Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces; Dispose of Trash Properly; Leave What You Find; Minimize Campfire Impacts; Respect Wildlife; and Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
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Parks across the country have undergone budget cuts throughout the years. It helps tremendously when visitors pick up after themselves, says Matt Tschirgi, park manager for the Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, Iowa.

“It’s important to be respectful to the land and the earth,” says Tschirgi, who has worked for the Iowa State Parks system for more than 20 years.

Plan Ahead & Prepare

Embrace The 7 Simple Principles Of Leave No Trace

The first principle of Leave No Trace is important for all nature lovers. Plan Ahead & Prepare so that you and your family have needed supplies. It’s important to make sure you have adequate water supplies for outdoor activities to prevent dehydration. Make sure you have the proper gear for your planned activities – blankets, coats, proper walking shoes, etc… Other ways to Plan Ahead & Prepare include making camping reservations, acquiring needed permits, and double-checking the weather.

Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces

Embrace The 7 Simple Principles Of Leave No Trace

The second principle focuses on Leave No Trace camping: Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces, which means preserving all-natural areas. When front-country camping and hiking, be sure to camp and travel on existing sites and trails. When back-country camping and hiking, choose the most durable surfaces so as not to harm vegetation.

Dispose of Waste Properly and Leave What You Find

Embrace The 7 Simple Principles Of Leave No Trace

The third principle of Leave No Trace seems simple enough – trash your trash. When you venture into nature be sure to “pack it in and pack it out,” which means not leaving anything behind. Clean up after yourself. Teach your children to pick up after themselves – straw wrappers, granola bar wrappers, etc.

The Iowa state parks take this Leave No Trace principle quite seriously. Tschirgi says none of the Iowa state parks have garbage cans except for next to concession stands. “We try to keep the park as clean as we can. You have to take your trash with you,” he says.

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Disposing of waste properly includes wastewater from dishes and human waste, too. Human waste and trash can lead to water pollution and harm to animals.

Let the next hikers, campers, or visitors to the county, state, or national park enjoy the sense of wonder and discovery. The fourth principle of Leave No Trace is Leave What You Find. Teach your children to take only memories and leave only footprints. Leave the beautiful rocks, flowers, deer antler shed, archaeological artifacts, and other objects of interest as you find them. “If there is a unique geological formation and everyone takes a rock as a souvenir, eventually there won’t be any of it left for the future. You have to have a preservation mindset,” Tschirgi says.

Take photos but enjoy the moment. In addition, remind your children that doing small things like carving initials in trees, caves or even benches leaves a sign that they were there. The goal of Leave No Trace is to truly leave Mother Nature as you found it so everyone can enjoy the beauty today, tomorrow, and in the future.

Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, and Be Considerate of Others

Minimizing Campfire Impacts is the fifth principle of Leave No Trace. Simply put: follow the rules when it comes to campfires. Check with the ranger to see if there is a burn ban. Use existing fire rings. Follow the rules about collecting and gathering firewood for the park you are visiting.

We all know there is something magical about enjoying a campfire on a starry night. But it is so important to remember to teach children fire safety. Do not burn litter. Supervise children. Keep fires small and only burn while you are using the fire. Do not leave a fire unattended. Keep camp stove fuel and extra wood away from the campfire. Extinguish fires completely with water.

Respect Wildlife. Teaching Leave No Trace Principles for kids when visiting the great outdoors: at a park or in their own backyard it is the animals’ homes. Quietly and safely observe wildlife from a distance. Do not chase animals or feed animals of any kind. Human interaction can cause animals to not fear humans which can put them in danger. Eating the wrong foods can be harmful to their digestive systems, too.

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When teaching your children, be sure to visit the Leave No Trace website to learn the 7 Leave No Trace Principles Hand Signs. The LNT website provides short video explanations of each of the seven points, each with a hand sign. This is a great tool for Scout leaders teaching LNT badges to their troops, as well as families who love the outdoors. Another tool for teaching is a 7 Principles of Leave No Trace PDF.

The seventh principle of Leave No Trace is to Be Considerate to Other Visitors. Everyone wants to enjoy nature, and to do so requires everyone to be courteous to each other. Do not let loud music or uncontrolled pets disturb other visitors. Yield to bicyclists or horseback riders when hiking. Yield to uphill hikers when hiking downhill. All in all – be kind to one another.

What are the 7 principles of Leave No Trace?

The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace are an important part of outdoor recreation and exploration. They strive to promote responsible recreation practices to protect the environment and the outdoors for future generations. The principles are: plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors.

What are the principles of Leave No Trace Scout?

Leave No Trace is an effort to help protect the environment and our natural resources. The seven principles of Leave No Trace provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. Leave No Trace applies to all outdoor recreation users, regardless of whether you’re practicing principles of Leave No Trace BSA or with Girl Scouts or any other type of visitor.

The Leave No Trace website offers resources and classes to learn more about Leave No Trace. The Leave No Trace concept is more than 50 years old, but the nonprofit was incorporated in 1994. The Cub Scout, Scouts BSA, and Girl Scout programs include the principles of Leave No Trace in lessons about the outdoors. “You have to have a preservation mindset,” Tschirgi says.

Photo Credits: Unsplash and Pexels

Check out Daily Mom’s article: Hiking With Kids In Tow: 4 Tricks To Truly Enjoy Your Adventures.

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Carla J. Eskew
Carla J. Eskew
Carla J. Eskew is a freelance writer, wife, and mom of two children who are nine years apart. She is a Scout leader with 17 years of experience in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. She serves as a volunteer at school, church, and with the homeless population. She loves road trips, sightseeing, camping, Pilates, and her black standard poodle, Midnight Shadow.