A Responsible Trip to the Great Outdoors: Your Guide to Leave No Trace

| July 7, 2023

By Nate Cohen

Sunny skies, long days, warm weather—summer is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors. Luckily, New York State is brimming with stunning destinations for both day trips and overnight adventures. From the Catskill and Adirondack mountains to the beaches of Long Island, to the many lakes, waterfalls, and scenic vistas that define our state parks, there is no shortage of places to explore. However, outdoor recreation can also have its drawbacks—namely harm to plants and wildlife. So before you embark on your next adventure, remember these key Leave No Trace principles.

What is Leave No Trace?

Leave No Trace, or LNT for short, is perhaps the most basic conservation principle. You might hear it from park rangers, or see it on a posted sign or on a trail map. The precise meaning of LNT will change based on the environment and activity, but these are the basic principles:

  • Practice Proper Waste Disposal

Whether hiking, sunbathing or camping out, be sure not to leave any trash of any kind behind. Dispose of all food and non-food waste in a garbage can, or carry it out with you. This may require some planning, by carrying in an empty garbage bag with you if no garbage cans are available on site. The reason for this is simple: Even food waste can severely alter and harm an ecosystem. And you certainly don’t want to leave litter behind for the next visitor to see.

If nature calls, use a trowel to dig a hole at least 200 feet from a water source. After you finish your business, be sure to cover the hole completely. This avoids contamination of nearby water sources, preventing the spread of water-borne illnesses.

  • Leave What You Find

Visitors should avoid altering the natural setting of an environment. As tempting as it may be to pick flowers or collect shells or pebbles on your next hike, camping trip or beach outing, LNT dictates that you leave these natural artifacts behind. Moreover, visitors should avoid physically altering nature by doing anything destructive, including hammering nails or carving initials into trees. We want the natural beauty to remain as is for future visitors.

  • Respect Wildlife

For some, witnessing wildlife can be the highlight of their outdoor adventure. For others, a wildlife encounter may be their worst fear. Regardless, when exploring outdoors, you should be aware of the creatures who inhabit the area and the dangers they pose. Wildlife may be unpredictable, cause serious injuries, or spread disease. Thus, to ensure your safety, avoid feeding or touching wild animals. It’s also best to avoid carrying scented items, including food in open containers. This can attract wildlife and create a hazard. 

Following these principles can go a long way towards protecting the environment and wildlife, and ensuring the outdoors remains pristine for future visitors. 

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