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In A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold wrote that “the land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.” Maybe it’s time for us to flip that idea on its head, and think of bringing Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics from our backcountry into a community-based approach, a goal the Center has been focusing on over the past few years. By addressing environmental stewardship across different components of a community – land managers, schools, Scout troops, volunteer groups, and community leaders – we can generate entire towns, cities, and states dedicated to the mindset of conservation, respect, and environmental citizenship that is Leave No Trace.
In April, the Leave No Trace e-tour headed to Klamath Falls, Oregon, for a community-wide Leave No Trace blitz. The week kicked off with events at a couple of the city's elementary schools. In two days, we got to speak to eight different classrooms, making over 200 brand-new Leave No Trace youth experts! These students were dialed in on what to do with trash when they're hiking, fishing, and hanging out around their beautiful city. We were incredibly impressed with how much some of the youth of Klamath Falls already knew.
This part of Oregon, surrounded by the marks of volcanic legacy, has a wealth of National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and Crater Lake National Park. We spent a day with some of the top-notch personnel from the US Forest Service and US Fish & Wildlife Service. It was great to talk with them about some of the specific and local issues they are dealing with throughout the area and asked some tough questions of us. Chatting about interactions between different user groups, people making unauthorized markings on trails, and the ever-present human waste issues, we got to cover a lot of territory. Not content to just talk about the backcountry, this group was really focused on how to get this information to the frontcountry users they see throughout their local community. Whether supplying outdoor information to new visitors or working backcountry Nordic ski patrol, they want to make sure everyone gets to learn about Leave No Trace!
On the final day in the community, we teamed up with a stellar group of Girl Scouts to help cleanup a local park. Before we grabbed our trash bags and gloves to put in a little service work, we talked about all seven Leave No Trace principles with a variety of games and demonstrations. One highlight was when the girls were really excited to learn about digging catholes! These young campers are going to be lifelong environmental stewards as they become the next group of leaders in this vibrant community.
Visiting in the schools, cleaning up a local park with Girl Scouts, and talking to local land managers gave us ample opportunity to live up to Aldo Leopold’s words about outdoor ethics and community. Leave No Trace isn’t about a single camping trip or even something to practice only in the outdoors, but a philosophy that an entire community can embrace.
Quinn & Frank