We are on the Road to Somewhere

East Lansing, MI: Have you ever heard the adage, “You can’t know what you don’t know”? It is a truism covering experiences far and wide, but no matter the subject, one hard to swallow pattern within this adage seems to always hold strong: We can not see where we are headed until we arrive.  For us at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, we challenge this stubborn reality and ask you to join us in the efforts.

Last week the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers East Central Team attended the National Order of the Arrow Conference, commemorating 100 years of brotherhood and service for the Order of the Arrow: an elite fraternal society within the Boy Scouts of America.  We were proud to represent Leave No Trace at the event, speaking to scouts at awareness workshops and highlighting our educational partnership that reaches millions of people annually. 

With this 100-year celebration, we began thinking about all the changes organizations go through over the years: honing in on their missions, seeing which outreaches are successful and adapting their practices to the latest research.  In the last 100 years, the Order of the Arrow has shifted its focus from being a brotherhood of honor campers to high adventure conservation and servant leadership.  Now, the Order of the Arrow plays an integral role in the community service branch of the Boy Scout model. 

This evolution and fluid growth is what makes an organization strong and relevant to the changing times.  This type of change is similar to the way Leave No Trace principles and practices have evolved over the years.  Did you know that the idea of “minimum impact” camping started in the mid 1960’s just after the Wilderness Act was passed?  Sounds about right, but recreationists and educators at the time did not really know what that meant because they did not have as much research and data to base their practices.  Additionally, they were not faced with the increased numbers of recreationists that are hitting the parks today.  With a rising 1.6 billion visits to our parks systems each year, it is becoming even more important that we all put forth the extra effort to be shining environmental stewards—an ever evolving practice.  In the beginning, respecting the wild lands meant hiding trash so no one else would find it; burning toilet paper and food scraps; sinking empty bottles in lakes and ponds; disposing of excrement in intertidal zones for decomposition.  Through research studies and investments in education, new minimum impact practices were discovered: we now encourage you to pack out all of your trash, always thinking, “Would it be here if you weren’t?” Information like this can only come after we have been around long enough to see and study the effects we have on the land and wildlife. Dedication to environmental research is an integral part of developing educational material and fueling the evolution of Leave No Trace ethics.  This education will help us know where we are headed before we arrive, before we are a day late and a dollar short—realizing the irreversible impacts before us. 

The Boy Scouts of America, having 2.4 million members, could potentially be a large source of damaging impact on our recreation lands; but thanks to our awesome partnership and a host of Leave No Trace champions, we are able to have millions of environmentally conscious, exemplary stewards of our lands: stewards that are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. 

A HUGE thanks goes out to our partners, the Boy Scouts of America, and our compliments on a job well done with 100 years of the Order of the Arrow. 

Katelyn & Blake

Leave No Trace’s Katelyn Stutterheim and Blake Jackson are part of the 2015 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, Deuter, Hi-Cone, REI, Smartwool, The North Face, and Yakima.