Research & Education

Authority of the Resource

Guest - July 3, 2013

How do you approach someone that is doing something that is, “Less than Leave No Trace”, maybe they are littering, feeding wildlife, carving their name into a tree, or taking an antler shed out of the environment. Whatever the issue is, there is a technique that you can use called the Authority of the Resource (AR) developed by Dr. George N. Wallace. Using AR can help a person confront and influence people that are doing something that damages the environment or other people’s recreational experiences.

According to Webster’s, “authority” means “the power to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior.” Leave No Trace is more likely to occur if people understand how their actions affect the areas they are traveling and camping in. Uniformed rangers and law enforcement officials can be a resource for addressing illegal impacts, damaging impacts, and especially dangerous situations.  Law enforcement officials represent the Authority of the Agency, but approaching people on the trail and using education to help persuade them to minimize their impact falls under the Authority of the Resource.

Here are five techniques that you can use to approach people on the trail when they are doing something less then Leave No Trace.

1.     Give the person the benefit of the doubt

·      It could have been someone else that caused the impact

·      People will be more responsive to you if you show them consideration and tact

2.     Build rapport with the person that you are approaching

·      Get to know the person. They may be new to traveling and camping in the outdoors and do not have experience minimizing their impact.

3.     Stand side by side

·      Never confront someone eye to eye. Stand off to the side so the problem is out in front of both of you.

4.     Educate

·      Teach people the reason why their impacts affect the environment.

5.     Give an alternative

·      Lastly, try and provide them with an alternative like taking pictures of an antler shed versus taking it out of the environment.

Remember, Authority of the Resource cannot always be used. In situations that may be dangerous, law enforcement officials should step in.

This information was obtained from the article Law Enforcement and the “Authority of the Resource” featured in Legacy, Volume 1 (2).

Thanks for reading and remember to be like Bigfoot and Leave No Trace.

Pat and TJ

Leave No Trace’s Patrick and Theresa Beezley are part of the 2013 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, Coleman, Hi-Cone, The North Face, REI, Smartwool and Yakima.


Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

Get the latest in Leave No Trace eNews in your inbox so you can stay informed and involved.