When recreating in the outdoors, there are seven core principles that are encouraged for all to follow. These principles help to protect public lands, such as remote wilderness areas, local parks and even your backyard, for future generations. They also apply to any recreation activity, such as skiing, hiking or snowshoeing.
Principle 1: Plan Ahead and Prepare
Planning a trip, whether it you are heading to a hotel or camping in a tent, takes a lot of preparation. The longer the trip, the more planning needs to occur. Going on an outdoor trip also takes extra preparation, as you may find you need different gear than your usual travels. Checking the weather before your trip and planning for potential bad weather is always a good idea. Wearing layers in any weather is helpful to make sure you can keep your body at a comfortable temperature. Making sure everyone you are on the trip with knows the itinerary and any emergency plans is also key. The more you plan, the more likely you can adapt to any problems that come up.
Principle 2: Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
When planning a trip, where you are camping, or recreating is just as important as when you go on the trip. In order to preserve land and protect species, there are specific areas and surfaces designated for camping or recreating. There are a lot of websites you can visit that will help you to decide where to visit and camp, such as AllTrails.com, Recreation.gov and visitutah.com (or the state you are looking to explore).
A good example of this principle would be to stay on the marked path while hiking, and not making your own path. The marked path is cleared of debris and any possibly poisonous plants. Once you go off path, you may encounter animals or plants that did not plan on being disturbed. When camping, you want to find a campsite that has cleared areas for camping, or concrete slabs to place your tent. Just like with hiking, if you choose to put your tent in an unmarked area, you may encounter plants or animals you are not expecting.
Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly
Disposing of waste properly, whether it is human trash, animal waste or wastewater, is another important principle. Campgrounds and most trailheads have trash cans where you can dispose of human and pet waste. You may find that trails do not have trash cans along the trail and you will need to keep trash with you until you find a trash can. Littering on trails can cause animals to become sick or even become aggressive. Being a good land steward also means you pick up trash you see on the trail, even if you did not drop it.
Wastewater, such as water you use to wash dishes or take a shower in the woods, also needs to be disposed of properly. You should be 200 feet from a lake or stream while you wash dishes or take a shower. Scattering dishwasher after you wash dishes is the best principle, as well as making sure to pick up any food scraps left in the dishes.
Principle 4: Leave what you find
You will see so many beautiful sights on your trip- animal tracks, pretty leaves, rock formations and even animals. In order to respect the land and its inhabitants, an important rule of thumb to follow is to leave what you find. Removing plants and animals from their native home can be detrimental to their native habitat, as well as anywhere you may leave the plant or release the animal after your trip. A great way to document things you see on your trip is to make sure you take a camera or a phone to capture photos. You may also find you want a tripod to take group photos.
Principle 5: Minimize Campfire Impacts
Campfires bring memories of smores and hanging out with family, but they can also turn deadly if not taken care of properly. One small campfire can turn into a raging forest fire that can harm people and animals. Fires should only be started in designated areas, such as fire pits. You should not attempt to start a fire somewhere that is close to loose, overhanging brush. The fire should always be attended, at no time should the fire be left going while you are sleeping or away from your camping area. This is because there are too many variables that could impact the size of the fire and the possibility it could get out of control.
Another important aspect of fire building is choosing the right wood to make fires with. You should use the wood provided at the campsite as opposed to bringing your own wood on the trip. Wood or sticks from other locations may have foreign bugs or animals on them that can become invasive species in the new location. Try to buy firewood within 50 miles of your camping location.
Principle 6: Respect Wildlife
No matter what season it is, you are likely to encounter wildlife on your trip. From elk and birds in the winter, to bears and deer in the spring, you need to know how to respect wildlife and how to stay safe in case you have a close encounter. You should never try to approach an animal in the wild. Wild animals are just that, wild, and are unpredictable. If you see any animal on the trail in front of you, the best course of action is to move out of the way and let them pass, or to turn around and go back the way you came. You should never yell at an animal or throw things at it.
If you encounter an animal and it is coming at you, there are several things you can do. If you are approached by an elk or moose, you will want to get into an area with trees. They are too big to fit in between close trees. If you encounter a bear, you will want to stand still and wave your arms. This will indicate to them that you are a human and not prey. If the bear is approaching you, stand your ground and do not run. They can run fast and climb trees.
Principle 7: Be considerate of others
The last but still a very important principle is being considerate of others while recreating. We want everyone to be able to have an enjoyable time outdoors, which means sharing spaces. Some people go on solo trips or small group trips and want to minimize their contact with others. In order to maximize privacy, avoid trips on holidays and busy weekends. No matter the size of your group, you should be aware of the space you are taking up. Staying to the right of the trail or moving over to let others past are great examples of being considerate of others.
While it seems like a lot, following these principles are the best way to make sure to preserve our public lands for years to come. If everyone does their part, the lands will stay clean and safe for animals and humans.