Leave No Trace - Concept or Responsibility
Is ‘Leave No Trace’ just a concept, or is it a real responsibility that we all share? "We must think seven generations ahead, that is what the elders say." This is the motto of the Tohono O’odhan people, who truly understood that mere words like "Leave No Trace" mean nothing unless put into practice. The statement made me reflect upon how removed we have become from our natural environment.
America has become a very high-consumption society. In most cases, we are not even looking forward one generation, let alone seven. I sincerely believe that in order to preserve the beauty of our remaining natural lands and wilderness, we need to move away from this self-centered, consuming approach and create a long-term process of preservation and environmental responsibility.
Can anybody truly leave no trace of their presence while out enjoying a hike or a horseback ride? It is nearly impossible, as our very footsteps are a constant reminder of man's intrusions upon the land. However, we can all make the effort to minimize our effects.
It is time now for us all to take responsibility for the care of our precious public lands. I challenge everyone to do their best to leave no trace.
This might include refraining from building campfires in the fragile desert environments such as the popular Superstition Wilderness. In the thirty-five years that I have explored the Superstitions, I have found that most of the campfires made by other visitors are purely social in nature and consume the very beauty of the desert that we all seek in the first place. Instead, why not enjoy the sounds of the desert on a sultry spring evening and the beauty of a black star-speckled sky? There are many areas where campfires are rightfully prohibited, including the Grand Canyon and many areas in the vast Sierra Nevada Wilderness of California. I am not suggesting that all fires should be banned in the Superstitions, but perhaps we could utilize less obtrusive methods such as stoves, fire pans, and candle lanterns. These options would provide the mystic feel of a fire, while still allowing one to enjoy the beautiful night sky.
Furthermore, why not clean up after other people who have left a mess? I challenge everyone to spend a portion of time on their next outing picking up after less thoughtful people. This will help to convey the idea that it takes all of us working together to solve the problems that a very small few can create, sometimes without even realizing it.
Keep the phrase "Leave No Trace" foremost in your mind. Question your use of an area. If your use will leave a mark after you have left the area, no matter how small, ask yourself - Is my activity in the wilderness something I need to do or something I want to do? Talk with others about respecting the desert and teach the practice of "Leave No Trace" whenever possible. As the elders say, we must make decisions for seven generations ahead, and we must all work together in this process. I again challenge everyone to look far ahead and be a part of the solution, not the problem. Areas such as the Superstition Wilderness are truly an American legacy that we will pass along to our children. Let us assume the responsibility of caring for these unique areas before it is too late.
The choice is yours.
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