Leave No Trace In The News

Aspen, CO: Imagine a cross between a frat party and a Phish concert. Now drop that scene onto a high alpine basin with a small hot springs pool and you’ve got an idea of the trouble that was facing Conundrum Hot Springs until recently. Trash, discarded clothing, exposed piles of human waste (yup, poop), loud groups and music playing on speakers, vegetation damage from trampling and firewood gathering, human-wildlife conflicts, and safety risks to unprepared hikers marred the wilderness character of this otherwise idyllic spot high in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. These impacts motivated Conundrum’s selection as a 2017 Leave No Trace Hot Spot.[1]

We recently had the chance to revisit Conundrum Hot Springs. The 2017 Hot Spot week was very successful (read about it here), but what’s exciting about this Hot Spot is how clearly it illustrates the positive outcomes possible through the partnerships formed between public lands and Leave No Trace. On our recent backpacking trip to Conundrum Hot Springs during the revisit, we discovered only echoes of recent troubles. What follows is a brief and undoubtedly incomplete list of some of the numerous things that have made Hot Spots like this one so successful:

Focus: You can go down a rabbit hole if you try to apply overly broad Leave No Trace recommendations to a specific list of impacts. By focusing on impacts that were causing the most harm at Conundrum, the USDA Forest Service and Leave No Trace staff were able to craft more effective educational messages to visitors. These impacts can be summarized as bears, poop, and crowding. We’ll get into how the Forest Service is on track to solve these issues below.


Boots on the Ground: Even in the digital age, face-to-face contact remains the most effective way of communicating environmental stewardship. The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District staff, along with the Forest Conservancy volunteer group, have worked hard to help educate visitors so that they can make better decisions and have safer, more sustainable backcountry trips. We got to go with some rangers on an overnight patrol to Conundrum, and their level of rapport with visitors and their communication skills were impressive. Leave No Trace has been able to help rangers and volunteers further hone their messaging with interactive workshops on the best ways to communicate Leave No Trace. Workshops were held during the 2017 Hot Spot week and again this year during our revisit. 


Clear, Direct Communication: Whether it’s done through face-to-face communication, or through trailhead signs or websites, explaining the social, ecological and aesthetic reasons behind recommendations goes a long way in helping visitors develop low impact wilderness habits. The Forest Service has developed new trailhead signs with input from Leave No Trace, improved messaging on their websites, and included a video produced by Leave No Trace on how to protect Conundrum at the top of its camping permit page. The permit system hasn’t reduced overall visitation to Conundrum, but it has spread out the annual average 6,000+ visitors so that they’re not all there on the same five weekends. What’s more, requiring overnight visitors to obtain a permit online allows for the chance to provide them with important information right there on the permit page. 

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Empowering Good Decisions: As recently as 2014, there were at least 30 reported incidents per year of bear-human interaction in the area, culminating in the euthanizing of one bear. By requiring that overnight visitors use certified bearproof containers, the Forest Service has cut that number down to zero today, empowering visitors with an easier and safer way to visit the area (for humans and bears). In addition, to help mitigate human waste impacts in the fragile, rocky alpine basin, portable chemical toilets (WAG bags) are available at the trailhead for free. Sanitary and easy to use, these help visitors leave no trace when nature calls. 


Community Engagement: Katy Nelson, Wilderness and Trails Program Manager for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, brought in members of the local and regional press, including Colorado Public Radio, the Aspen Daily News, and 5280 Magazine, as well as including local retailers, outfitters and volunteer trail stewards from the Aspen-based Forest Conservancy to help spread the word. In addition, the Forest Service solicited and received well over 200 constructive public comments on the permit mandate. 

Commitment to Leave No Trace Training: Training in Leave No Trace principles, practices and communication techniques is always a big part of any Hot Spot, and we had the opportunity to continue this tradition on our revisit, with a full day training for trail crews, rangers, local outfitters and volunteers. One of the central action items emerging from our revisit is the integration of Leave No Trace training into volunteers’ and employees’ regular training opportunities. 


Thank you to all who invest in their public lands. They’re worth protecting, and we could never spread Leave No Trace education without your hard work

Enjoy Your World. Leave No Trace.

Jessie and Matt

Leave No Trace's Jessie Johnson and Matt Schneider are part of the 2018 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, Taxa, and Klean Kanteen.

[1] If you’ve followed Leave No Trace even just a little, you’re probably familiar with Hot Spots, the central program in our Leave No Trace in Every Park initiative. Leave No Trace Hot Spots are areas negatively affected by human-caused impacts such as erosion, vegetation damage, crowding, litter, fire damage and improper disposal of human waste (poop). Basically, they’re amazing places in danger of being loved to death, but places that can (and do) recover with focused and comprehensive Leave No Trace education. This takes many forms and the months leading up to a Hot Spot are busy with planning calls and outreach to stakeholder groups, volunteers, partner agencies, outfitters, guide services, schools, and local media, in order to gather a team of folks who are invested in their hometown outdoor destination. The eight days of the Hot Spot are filled with Leave No Trace Awareness Workshops, Communication Workshops, school programs, trailhead outreach, service projects, backcountry trips, and focused consulting with land managers and other stakeholders; all in order to arrive at a clear action plan for the future.



Denver, CO: Researchers from the United States Geological Survey in Colorado published new findings detailing the discovery of pharmaceuticals, hormones, pesticides, and other contaminants in both remote and accessible lakes of Rocky Mountain National Park. Common contaminants detected from water samples in this study were caffeine, camphor, para-cresol, and even DEET (the active ingredient in many insect repellents). While some of the contaminants discovered can be attributed to naturally occurring sources, other traces of pharmaceuticals, including oxycodone, are clearly a result of human input. These alarming findings are a wake-up call for all of us in the outdoor recreation community.

Photo: Contaminants linked to humans were found in remote Colorado lakes according to new research. 

The Study

Between 2012 and 2013, researchers collected 67 water samples, 57 sediment samples, 63 fish samples, 10 frog tissue samples, and 12 quality-control samples. This array of samples was collected from 20 different locations across Rocky Mountain National Park. Once obtained, the samples were analyzed for an astounding 349 different parameters, including tests for 149 pharmaceuticals, 22 hormones, 137 pesticides, and 61 other chemicals or wastewater conditions. Findings detected 29 different pharmaceuticals, 9 hormones, 8 pesticides, and 27 wastewater indicators. The most commonly occurring contaminants were caffeine, camphor, para-cresol, and DEET.

Perhaps most interesting from a Leave No Trace perspective, is that most of the pharmaceuticals detected are excreted primarily through our urine, rather than our feces. These pharmaceuticals were represented by stimulants including caffeine and nicotine, pain relievers like ibuprofen, oxycodone, and phenobarbital, antidepressants, and heart, lung, and diabetes medications.

Of the 8 pesticides found in the study, many are thought to have arrived through atmospheric deposition, meaning that prevailing winds carry these contaminants from outside of the park, where they are deposited on soils and surfaces waters. However, the presence of DEET in 23 of the water samples points to our human recreation as another contributing factor for the introduction of pesticides. While the concentrations of DEET detected in this study aren’t thought to be toxic to aquatic life, the presence alone serves as a call to action for all park visitors. 

While no individual contaminant detected in this study was present at high enough levels to have direct negative consequences on aquatic ecosystems, the cumulative effects of multiple different contaminants are thought to create negative impacts on aquatic life. 

Pictured Above: Conundrum Hot Springs in Colorado shares these concerns about human waste.

What this Means for Leave No Trace

The discovery of pharmaceuticals, hormones, pesticides, and other contaminants in remote waters is alarming, and the lakes of Rocky Mountain National Park aren’t likely to be alone in this category. Many of the contaminants detected in this study can be traced directly to humans. While not ideal, the silver lining is that we have an opportunity as humans to reduce these impacts to water sources through our choices in the backcountry. Here are several easy choices you can make on your next outdoor adventure to help keep our precious water sources pristine:

  • Camp 200 Feet (70 big steps) away from water sources: When we park our tents immediately next to a water source, we increase the likelihood that our contaminants like soap, food scraps, sunscreen, bug spray, urine, and poop end up in that water source. When nature calls in the middle of the night, campers sleeping right next to the lake aren’t likely to walk 200 feet away to urinate. Instead, choose a campsite 70 big steps away from water to prevent our contaminants from reaching that water source.
  • Lather, Rinse, Repeat does not apply to alpine lakes: We all love swimming in clear, cool lakes during the heat of the summer. Before you take the plunge, avoid lathering up in sunscreen and bug spray. If you’re worried about residue from an earlier application, gather a small amount of water, walk 70 big steps away from the water source, and give yourself a quick rinse before taking the bigger plunge in to the lake.
  • Urinate and Poop 200 feet (70 big steps) away from water: Many of us have been taught to dig our hole for poop well away from water sources, but often times urine isn’t considered in this recommendation. The results of this study suggest that we need to take equal care in distancing both our urine and our poop from water sources. Urinating directly in water sources like alpine lakes and streams is never in style. Go the extra distance necessary to ensure that your urine doesn’t end up in any water source.
  • Go Before You Go: If restroom facilities are available at the trailhead or visitor center, use them before embarking on your hike or overnight trip to minimize the amount of human waste you may leave behind in the backcountry.


While the results of this study are alarming, we’re hoping this alarm serves as an important reminder to all hikers, backpackers, equestrian users, anglers, climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts to protect the places we love through simple choices.

Enjoy Your World and Leave No Trace.

Leave No Trace's Donielle Stevens and Aaron Hussmann are part of the 2018 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, Taxa, and Klean Kanteen. 


Battaglin, W. A., Bradley, P. M., Iwanowicz, L., Journey, C. A., Walsh, H. L., & Blazer, V. S. (2018). Pharmaceuticals, hormones, pesticides, and other bioactive contaminants in water, sediment, and tissue from Rocky Mountain National Park, 2012–2013. Science of the Total Environment,643, 651-673. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.06.150


Boulder, Colorado: The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has partnered with technology giant Google to showcase the Center’s research efforts in Denali, Grand Teton and Yosemite National Parks.

View the interactive story on Google Earth.

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“It’s incredibly exciting that Google is putting this spotlight on Leave No Trace,” says Dana Watts, the Center’s Executive Director. “Our story provides a stunning representation of the ways that our research teams are partnering with national parks to help improve visitor experience and protect natural resources.”

The Leave No Trace story was featured at the Summer Show at Outdoor Retailer, North America’s largest trade show for the outdoor industry. The Access Fund released a companion story about its efforts to protect climbing access in Utah’s Bear’s Ears and other national monuments.

Google supplied a 10X12-foot a video display to broadcast the screenings of the stories at the trade show, and is actively promoting the stories to its vast audience. “The Google Earth Outreach Team is dedicated to using geospatial tools to help inspire a deeper appreciation of the planet,” says Google Program Manager Dusty Reid. “We want to support the outdoor recreation community because the people who use lands for recreation are also passionate about land stewardship. We are excited to provide nonprofits with access to mapping information and assist them with place-based storytelling.”

Denver, Colorado: The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is joining forces with technology giant Google for the Summer Show at Outdoor Retailer, North America’s largest trade show for the outdoor industry. The Access Fund will also be joining the party—both non-profits are based in Boulder, Colorado.


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Each organization will debut an original storytelling project on Google Earth, which combines high-resolution maps and dynamic flyover views with videos, still photography and text. Presentations and gear giveaways to benefit both non-profits will be held daily at their shared space inside the lobby of the Denver Convention Center, directly under the giant bear sculpture.


Google is supplying a 10X12-foot "Earth Wall," a high-resolution video display to broadcast the screenings of the stories. “The Google Earth Outreach Team is dedicated to using geospatial tools to help inspire a deeper appreciation of the planet,” says Google Program Manager Dusty Reid. “We want to support the outdoor recreation community because the people who use lands for recreation are also passionate about land stewardship. We are excited to provide nonprofits with access to mapping information and assist them with place-based storytelling.”


The Center’s story explores efforts to reduce waste and achieve zero-landfill status in Denali, Grand Teton and Yosemite National Parks, while the Access Fund’s piece focuses on the effort to protect climbing access in the face of reductions to Bears Ears and other national monuments in the U.S.


“It’s incredibly exciting that Google is putting a spotlight on Leave No Trace at the biggest event in our industry,” says Dana Watts, the Center’s Executive Director. “The story provides a stunning representation of the ways our research teams partner with national parks to help improve visitor experience and protect natural resources.”


The Leave No Trace and Access Fund Google Earth stories will be presented on Tuesday, July 24 at 4 PM, with representatives from Google on hand to discuss the partnership with Leave No Trace and the Access Fund. The Earth Wall will be on display throughout the show, broadcasting additional Earth stories, and helping the organizations to host a variety of fundraiser events. See below for a full schedule of events and gear giveaways.


Monday, July 23 | 4-5:30 PM

Live Draw with Jeremy Collins: Fundraiser for Access Fund and Leave No Trace

Location: Beneath the Blue Bear at the Access Fund / Leave No Trace / Google Booth

Watch famed artist Jeremy Collins create a visual masterpiece—one that you can take home. Join Access Fund and Leave No Trace for a live rendering on Google’s Earth Wall. Pre-order the poster that Jeremy will create onsite for $20. Plus, snag a YETI 10-ounce Lowball filled with Upslope beer for $10. All proceeds will benefit Access Fund and Leave No Trace.


Tuesday, July 24 | 2:30 PM

Google Street View Info Session

Location: Beneath the Blue Bear at the Access Fund / Leave No Trace / Google Booth

Create your own Street View: find out how to record Street View where it's missing today—including hiking trails and roads less traveled—and publish it on Google Earth and Google Maps for the rest of world to view.


Tuesday, July 24 | 4 PM

Great Gear Giveaway and Leave No Trace/Access Fund Voyager Stories

Location: Beneath the Blue Bear at the Access Fund / Leave No Trace / Google Booth
Get your raffle tickets for one of the biggest gear giveaways at the Summer Market (must be present to win), with all proceeds to benefit Access Fund and Leave No Trace. Plus, check out the Leave No Trace and Access Fund original Earth Voyager stories on the Earth Wall display.


Wednesday, July 25 | 9-10 AM

Coffee in Yosemite with Tommy Caldwell

Location: Beneath the Blue Bear at the Access Fund / Leave No Trace / Google Booth
Grab a coffee with legendary climber Tommy Caldwell and listen while he takes us on a stunning tour of The Nose on the Google Earth Wall. Purchase a Klean Kanteen 8-ounce tumbler with Alpine Start coffee or CUZA tea for $10 and sip away while enjoying the Access Fund and Leave No Trace Google Earth stories. All proceeds will benefit Access Fund and Leave No Trace.


Wednesday, July 25 | 4-5:30 PM

Happy Hour with the Tempest Two and the Great Gear Giveaway

Location: Beneath the Blue Bear at the Access Fund / Leave No Trace / Google Booth
The Tempest Two has dedicated their lives to proving that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Join them for a beer and learn what it takes to row across the Atlantic, to motorbike from London to the Sahara, or to complete an ultra-triathlon in Patagonia. Custom glasses, filled with Olympia beer, are available for $5. All proceeds will benefit Access Fund and Leave No Trace.


Media Contacts: Mark Eller for Leave No Trace mark@LNT.org; Heather McGonegle for Access Fund heather@accessfund.org; Mara Harris for Google; maraharris@google.com


Boulder, Colorado: Recently, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics staff ventured away from our desks to catch a matinee showing of a film with the familiar-sounding title. Leave No Trace the movie is a compelling story in which Ben Foster and Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie play a father and daughter living in self-imposed exile, camping and foraging on the outskirts of civilization.

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Living in a tent and keeping quiet in the woods—how could a summer movie be better aligned with the Leave No Trace movement and the Center’s work, right?

Actually, that’s not quite the case.

The story is told movingly, and shot wonderfully, by director Debra Granik. While some of the subject matter is superficially related to the work we do at the Center, at its heart Leave No Trace has little to do with the Leave No Trace program and movement. Sure, the characters are immersed in nature and are highly tuned into the forest they call home. But the real focus is on revealing the dynamic between the caring, but troubled, father and the daughter who is discovering her own identity.

Ultimately, the forests and nature scenes in the movie are props. The dramatic tension of the film doesn’t dissipate at all when the scene shifts to an abandoned boxcar, or a small house that the characters try inhabiting.

The crucial difference between the Leave No Trace organization and the work we do and the film that unfortunately shares our name is that we help people understand how to protect and enjoy the natural world—not a symbolic representation of nature but actual streams, woodlands, mountains and other natural areas. Our work is research-based and is guided by both practical experience and sound environmental science. 

The Center reaches more than 15 million people annually, helping them understand how to minimize impacts and protect nature. Highly effective programs like the Traveling Trainers and Hot Spots deliver crucial education and encourage people to care for and protect special places around the globe. 

As the hashtag #LeaveNoTrace bounces around social media this summer we hope lots of moviegoers will get the chance to check out Granik’s film. We also hope that people who are unfamiliar with the work we do at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics will be inspired to explore the actual natural world, and to learn a bit more about how to protect it by tapping into Leave No Trace’s rich knowledge base.  

Note: Read this if you're curious and the Center's brand standards and the use of "Leave No Trace." 

KANAB, UTAH-- The Joes started the year in Southern Utah, which seemed like another planet compared to our Midwestern roots. Slot canyons are wild, y’all! 

Buckskin Gulch

Immediately after hiking part of Buckskin Gulch, we stopped at a Kanab coffeeshop, picked up a copy of The Southern Utah Independent, and saw a story that caught our eyes. Local land managers had imposed fees on a similar slot canyon just 50 miles northwest. Why? Human waste!

According to the SU Independent, Kanarra Falls Canyon has seen a significant uptick in users with an equivalent increase in impacts, especially human waste and trailside debris. With more than 40,000 visitors a year, incremental effects at Kanarra Falls threatened not just the regional water supply, but the canyon’s fragile ecosystem too.

Daily user fees are a small price to protect our public lands. Funds install pit toilets at the trailhead and increase educational outreach to trail visitors, which can prevent further impacts and avoid future rescue operations. Most of these effects, though, could be avoided through Leave No Trace.

Keep a few things in mind next time you’re hiking a slot canyon, especially if there aren’t user fees in place.

Buckskin Gulch 2.JPGPlan ahead and prepare: Read up on the area and avoid flash flood conditions.

Travel and camp on durable surfaces: Minimize your impact on the canyon by staying on the trail.

Dispose of waste properly: Check to see if dogs are allowed, and be sure to remove all human and animal waste (digging a cathole 200 feet from the trail is all but impossible in a canyon setting).

Enjoy your world! Don’t let a fee keep you from exploring Southern Utah, but know that it’s a team effort to keep these places spectacular.

Click here to read the original story from Southern Utah Independent.
Click here to visit Kanarra Falls Canyon.

Leave No Trace's Joe Besl and Joe Creaghead are part of the 2018 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, and Klean Kanteen.

Boulder, Colorado: Citizen science is a popular movement that allows people from all walks of life to help advance scientific research by collecting and sharing data. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics recently announced a new citizen science pilot project, scheduled for this summer. A grant from the U.S. Forest Service will help fund the project in Colorado’s White River National Forest.

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The Conundrum Hot Springs area, near Aspen, Colorado, will be one of the focus areas for Leave No Trace's citizen science monitoring pilot project this summer.  

“I’m very excited about expanding Leave No Trace’s citizen science program,” said Dana Watts, the Center’s executive director. “There is huge potential to take the experience we gain this summer and create a platform that will allow communities across the country to play an active role in monitoring the health of all kinds of natural areas.”

Lauren Atkinson, a graduate student in the Masters of Environmental Management program at Western State Colorado University, will lead the pilot project fieldwork. Atkinson has educated thousands of visitors and engaged hundreds of students in science learning, working in places like the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Corridor in the White Mountain National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, Arches National Park and as a mountain bike guide in Moab, Utah. She helped launch the Appalachian Mountain Club’s citizen science program, Mountain Watch.

Atkinson will work closely with Katy Nelson, Wilderness and Trails Program Coordinator in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, to design a monitoring program that provides relevant information for the agency’s staff, and engages people in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley to participate in the effort.

“Monitoring natural areas through citizen science gives individuals and communities the opportunity to expand their stewardship of places that they care about deeply,” said Watts. “Our program will engage people of all ages, including school-aged kids, scouting groups and the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. The Center has strong connections with the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, summer camps and many other institutions that will be eager to dig into this exciting field.”

Citizen science also offers opportunities for the Center to support the goals of STEM and STEAM education. Partners like the National Environmental Education Foundation and Student Conservation Association and others have expressed strong interest in future involvement with Leave No Trace’s citizen science monitoring program. 

Throughout the summer-long pilot project, the Center will consult with an advisory panel to help plan the next stages and the broad expansion of its citizen science efforts. Advisory panel members include:

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Since it’s Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d share one of our staff’s best “Leave No Trace Cringe Date” stories — enjoy!

“Just prior to our first date, she texts to say she is running late. Thirty minutes later, she arrives for dinner and launches into a lengthy apology, explaining she was out hiking with friends and their dogs were off leash. They were ticketed by a ranger, and the ranger would not stop explaining why the dogs were not allowed off leash in that area. Thus it was the ranger’s fault she was late.

Without missing a beat, she then continued “… so what do you do for work?” WOOPS!

— Kurt Achtenhagen, Chief Financial Officer




We’re excited to be recognized as Nonprofit of the Year, alongside many other incredible people and organizations, at the Outdoor Inspiration Awards. READ MORE




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How will Leave No Trace evolve to include social media guidance? Read more to find out and let us know what you think! READ MORE



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The Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers are conducting events in almost every state of the nation this year. Below are a few of their workshops in the next months.

Boulder, CO: Sure, 2017 may be remembered as the year that “fake news” entered the popular vocabulary, but journalism isn’t dead yet. The five news items below surely rank among the feel-good Leave No Trace stories of the year. 


Illustration by Michael Byers for 5280 magazine. 

Are We Loving Colorado's Wild Places to Death?
Published by 5280 magazine, this feature story includes great illustrations, photography and an in-depth look at Leave No Trace's efforts in Colorado's high country—including the Center's 2017 Hot Spots work at Conundrum Hot Springs. 

A Tranquil Swimming Hole is Overwhelmed by Its Own Internet Fame 
The Old Grey Lady (New York Times) offered this account of the Traveling Trainers and a successful Hot Spots campaign in the Catskills region of Upstate New York. 

Is Instagram Ruining the Great Outdoors? 
This story, published by Outside magazine, addresses the issue of social media popularizing outdoor areas, sometimes in irresponsible ways. It also points out the need for educating people about Leave No Trace and quotes the Center's staff. 

Colorado Tourism Office Cements Partnership with Sustainability Group 
Denver Business Journal covered the Center's first-of-its-kind partnership with the Colorado Tourism Office to help build a statewide Leave No Trace program for visitors and residents who take advantage of Colorado’s rich recreational resources.

Does Your Phone Help, or Hurt Your Relationship, with Nature?  
Continuing the theme of social media affecting how we interact with the natural world, this story appeared in a supplement to USA Today, helping spread the Leave No Trace message to millions of readers. 

Aurora, CO (Oct. 16, 2017) ─ In a joint news conference this week with Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics announced an innovative partnership aimed at encouraging the state’s 82 million visitors to travel like locals and be active stewards of Colorado’s precious natural resources.

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Image: The Colorado Tourism Office's Cathy Ritter (left) and Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics Executive Director Dana Watts. 

The event inspired coverage in the Colorado Business Journal and other regional news outlets. 

The state partnership is a first for the national the Leave No Trace Center, which counts the primary federal public land agencies as well as Subaru and many major U.S. outdoor retailer among its strategic partners.

“This is a significant step forward in our state’s quest to identify and then address threats to what makes Colorado such an extraordinary place to live, visit and work,” said Lynne, who joined representatives of the CTO and the Leave No Trace Center at a news conference and then a volunteer cleanup of Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora. Cherry Creek’s 2 million-plus visitors a year makes it both the most-visited and most-impacted of Colorado’s 41 state parks.

The CTO and Leave No Trace have outlined their new relationship in a six-page memorandum of understanding intended as a model for other states as well. An accompanying task agreement describes plans for collaborations with at least three tourism industry sectors to create best practices for travelers. The two organizations also will collaborate on messaging, research and a statewide public lands cleanup project in the coming year.

“This new relationship, at its core, is a response to the heartfelt concerns many Coloradans express about the impacts of visitation on the places they love,” said CTO Director Cathy Ritter. “By sharing the Leave No Trace Seven Principles in compelling ways, we can inspire and empower visitors and locals to leave our state better than they found it.”

Dana Watts, executive director of the nonprofit Leave No Trace Center, said her board of directors sees much potential for expanding the reach of its iconic messaging through new state partnerships.

“Since our founding in 1994, we’ve magnified our message primarily through strategic alliances with organizations that share our passion and commitment,” Watts said. “This new partnership with the CTO holds huge potential for influencing many millions of people. Safeguarding natural resources is extremely important in a state like Colorado, where 37 percent of lands are federally owned and another 5 percent are in state hands.”

The partnership is the latest initiative to come from the Colorado Tourism Roadmap, a three- to five-year strategic plan to build the Colorado tourism industry’s competitive advantage. Early thinking about the partnership stemmed from concerns expressed by tourism stakeholders, elected leaders and residents in 20-plus listening sessions around the state.

“The outdoor recreation industry for years has desired a deeper connection with the tourism industry,” said Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. “This new relationship between CTO and Leave No Trace clearly shows the commitment of Colorado tourism toward protecting the natural resources that drive our state’s $23 billion outdoor recreation economy. Once again, Colorado is leading the way through an innovative approach to creating partnerships across industry sectors.”