Information & Curriculum Revisions Process

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics was incorporated as a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization in 1994, though the modern concept of “Leave No Trace” is over 50 years old. In 1987, a “no trace” program was formed for wilderness and backcountry travel and the USDA Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management cooperatively created and began distributing a pamphlet entitled “Leave No Trace Land Ethics.” In the early 1990s, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) was enlisted to develop hands-on, science-based minimum impact education training for non-motorized recreational activities. Then, in 1993, an Outdoor Recreation Summit with land management agencies, NGOs and members of the outdoor industry convened in Washington DC to form an independent Leave No Trace organization. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (The Center), was incorporated in 1994.

The organization develops and expands minimum impact training and educational resources for outdoor users. The basis of the Leave No Trace program is the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace, which provide a framework of minimum impact practices and recommendations for enjoying the outdoors responsibly. Although Leave No Trace has its roots in backcountry and wilderness settings, the Principles have been adapted over the years so that they can be applied anywhere — from remote backcountry areas, to local parks and even in your own backyard. They also apply to almost every recreational activity. Each Principle covers a specific topic and provides detailed information to help people, no matter what level of experience in the outdoors, make decisions that will help them protect the lands and waterways they are enjoying.

Leave No Trace curriculum and information, including the Seven Principles, is well established, based in science and widely known. However it is not static. The Center continually examines, evaluates and reshapes Leave No Trace educational resources, training curriculum and materials, and the specific recommendations linked to the Seven Principles. Over the past year and a half, the Center has significantly enhanced its focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). For a more in depth looks at the Center’s DEI efforts please see this information.

In November of 2020, the Center began the latest revisions process, starting with the seminal piece of Leave No Trace curriculum known as the North American Skills & Ethics booklet. This text is the foundation from which all other Leave No Trace information and curriculum stems. By undergoing a comprehensive review with a specific focus on DEI, the Center intends to update all its resources and information over time to ensure that these resources are as inclusive as possible. The process for this revision is ongoing and is described below.

Internal Review

  • Members of the Center’s Education Department convened to conduct the initial review. This group compartmentalized the curriculum into smaller sections for a more focused review of each Principle and the corresponding guidance.
  • Each individual or team of individuals were assigned to one of the Seven Principles and tasked with reviewing the content and language through a variety of lenses with a focus on intersectionality. Reviewers were encouraged to tap into their own lived experiences as well as formal training on topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Once this was complete, each team member reviewed and added thoughts or comments on an additional Principle to ensure a robust process.

 External Review

  • To include external voices and perspectives, we sought expertise from the following:
    • The JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) Advisory group of Outward Bound Adventures. For a complete list of these members and their bios see below.
    • The Leave No Trace Federal Land Management Agency Advisors (including relevant agency staff from each agency).

Additional external reviews will be conducted over the coming weeks/months by a range of people who have specific expertise and bring different DEI perspectives on Leave No Trace.

Process and Timeline

While the Center has an internal timeline for DEI-related updates to its materials, information, and curriculum, there is a specific objective to favor a comprehensive and effective review rather than a fast but limited process. As such, the Center intends to begin releasing updated information and curriculum during fall and winter 2021, with additional updates continuing into 2022.

The Center believes that DEI-related work is ongoing, and intends to create a feedback loop once new information is released to ensure that people and groups, not formally involved with this review process, can provide input for further enhancing the inclusivity of all Leave No Trace information.

If you have questions about this work or would like more information, please contact: ben@LNT.org.

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