More than at any time in Colorado history, people are choosing to spend their leisure time involved with outdoor activities and recreation. People come to Colorado as skiers flocking to Vail or Aspen or as outdoor enthusiast hiking, camping, traveling, hunting through the Rocky Mountains or climbing the 14'ers throughout Colorado or taking day trips. As cities grow and populations encroach upon protected natural area, we must do more than just pick up the litter and extinguish campfires. In 2015, the Tourism Office in Colorado reported that 77.7 million people visited our state.
With wildlife at risk, forest fires commonplace and many waterways polluted, the future of our natural world is in jeopardy. Isn’t it time to start thinking about protecting our natural resources and becoming more involved in limiting our footprints?
The question is not whether we will use Leave No Trace principles or continue as we did in the past; that option is no longer available. We can protect the environment whenever we are outdoors by remembering that, wherever we are, we are a visitor and by practicing the principles of Leave No Trace in all of our activities. We must learn how to maintain the integrity and character of the outdoors for all living things. It begins in our own backyard and even inside our homes.
Over 40 years ago, The Leave No Trace program was formally conceived by the National Forest Service to cultivate new sustainable wilderness ethics and non-trace travel and camping practices on federal lands. However, as populations in cities grew, and began to encroach upon protected natural areas, the Forest Service with the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management witnessed the adverse effects of this increased use. A new set of principles were designed to teach and inspire people to responsibly enjoy and protect the outdoors.
Leave No Trace is best understood as an educational and ethical program, not as a set of rules or regulations. Based on science and builds upon ethical, pragmatic approaches to resource protection The Leave No Trace is a national and international program designed to help individuals make and guide others in making good choices to minimize recreational impacts to help protect the wonderful outdoor locations they choose to enjoy. The program strives to educate all those who enjoy the outdoors about the nature of their recreational impacts, as well as, technique to prevent and minimize such impacts.
Every person’s relationship with the natural world is unique, whether it’s spending time in nature for adventure, sports, renewal or solitude. I believe it’s important to find reasons to care, so when I’m hiking or camping in our beautiful mountains, I’m always thinking about whether I am making a positive or negative impact on our environment. It might seem unimportant or trivial to concern ourselves with the well-being of our land because we think we can’t control what everyone else is or not doing.
Each of us, as an individual, can make a difference—be a good example of how to enjoy your outdoor activities in a responsible manner. Show others. Teach others. Encourage others. This is what it’s all about – taking care of our Colorado trails front and back country… Preserve the quality of resources and enhance all of our recreational experiences.
Wrriten by: Laverne Poturalski