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Nov 21, 2015

Spring, TX: Without volunteers Leave No Trace couldn’t accomplish our mission to teach people to enjoy the outdoors responsibility. We are fortunate to have people all throughout the country putting on awareness workshops and trainer courses, promoting Leave No Trace to schools and scout troops, and land management personnel advocating for our message. As an organization we are fortunate to have the support of individuals all around the country that volunteer as State Advocates. State advocates put on a variety of trainings from: Awareness Workshops, Trainer Courses, Master Educator Courses, as well as representing the Center at various events. The Center relies on the State Advocates to stay in close touch with the Mater Educators and Trainers in their state to be both a representative and a volunteer coordinator.


Andre Houser of Texas is one of our many amazing advocate making Leave No Trace education possible in his state.  He along with Bob Gates promotes Leave No Trace education throughout the huge state of Texas. Andre joined us at Kuehnle Elementary school this past week and helped facilitate an awareness workshop for over 650 kids. We were grateful to have such an experienced and knowledgeable educator supporting us and helping facilitate our awareness workshop. You can learn more about Andre in his bio below.


Andre Houser Bio:

HI! My name is Andre Houser, and I’m one of the two (count ‘em, two) Leave No Trace State Advocates in Texas. (Since everything is always bigger in Texas, we needed two advocates).

I grew up in Northwest Arkansas, where I learned to hunt, fish and roam the woods at an early age, and developed my love for things outdoors. I spent a few years in the Scouts, where I camped under what is now Beaver Lake, and spent summers at Camp Orr on the Buffalo National River.

I first learned of Leave No Trace in a Powder Horn course at Rancho El Cima in Texas. Charlie Thorpe was the Leave No Trace Consultant for that course. Shortly thereafter, I took a Trainer Course in Dallas’ Circle Ten Council, BSA. I wanted MORE, so I went to Philmont for my ME course, led by Dan Howells, Eric Hiser, Jim Karrol, and David Downing (Charlie Thorpe appeared somewhere in the middle). While there I was introduced to the magic of Brownies in an outback oven (Thanks Dan).

Since then I have served as co-Director of about 25 Leave No Trace Trainer courses, and have helped train about 250 Leave No Trace Trainers in Texas. I’m currently a member of the Sierra Club an am a certified Texas Master Naturalist.

My two sons are Eagle Scouts, and my daughter is a Girl Scout Silver. We love to camp, where I do most of the cooking in dutch ovens, my other passion (yes, I belong to LSDOS and IDOS), and meet regularly with a group of dutch oven folks for food, fun, and fellowship.

As one of your two State Advocates, I hope to keep up the good work of our predecessor and expand the program into the Texas Master Naturalist program and into the dutch oven cooking community. Since I am a municipal employee, I also hope to reach out to the parks and recreation departments in Texas, and help them realize the value of the Leave No Trace principles.

If you live in Texas and want to learn more about Leave No Trace or need help with any educational efforts contact Andre and Bob at

Thanks for reading and remember to be like the Center’s mascot Bigfoot and Leave No Trace.

Pat and TJ

Leave No Trace’s Patrick and Theresa Beezley 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, Hi-Cone, REI, and Smartwool.

Nov 20, 2015

Tucson, AZ: It is estimated that 70-80 million dogs are owned in the United States, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. If we consider that, by the end of 2014 there were 317 million people living in the United States (US Census) that equates to nearly 1 dog for every 4 people. Let’s imagine the average dog poops once a day. Now envision that, each dog owner walks their pup in a public park once a week, during which time the dog relieves itself. That would leave our public lands with four billion one hundred and sixty million piles of dog poop annually. That’s a lot of poop!

Specific issues related to improper disposal of dog waste:

Issue 1: Dog poop is a breeder of disease and germs, such as E. coli, Giardia, Salmonella, roundworms, hookworms, and Cryptosporidium. These are zoonotic diseases, which means they can be passed from animals to humans in areas contaminated with infectious feces of dogs, including playgrounds and sand boxes. Several of these become more infectious as the poop ages, as determined in the report, "The Link Between Animal Feces and Zoonotic Disease" by Emily Beeler. For example, roundworm eggs can take up to 3 weeks to ripen and may remain infectious for years in polluted water and soil. According to the Center for Disease Control, “About 14 percent of the US population is infected with Toxocara, or internal roundworms, contracted from dogs and cats.” 

Issue 2: Dog waste can contaminate nearby streams and lakes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the two main pollutants found in dog waste that damage water quality are nutrients and pathogens. When storm water washes dog poop into water sources, it breaks down and releases nutrients that can lead to excessive growth of weeds and algae, which can kill marine life. Additionally, this can make the water unsuitable for swimming, fishing or boating. The second main pollutant, pathogens, like the diseases discussed above, can cause local bodies of water to become too dangerous to swim or fish in, as well as drink. Water pollution is such a concern in the Seattle area, that the local organization Puget Sound Starts Here has teamed up with performer Martin Luther to produce this catchy video about "bagging up dog doogity."

Issue 3: Decomposition. Surely dog waste decomposes…doesn’t it? The short answer is yes, it does. The long answer might surprise you. In most cases our four legged friends are not eating a natural raw diet. Furthermore, dog food can often contain preservatives. What this means is that it can take up to or longer than one year to break down (depending upon the environment). The non-natural diet of most dogs also explains why it is important to pick up after our pups, but not after other wild animals. Simply put, wild animals are eating wild foods that are native to the area, contributing to the health of the ecosystem and decomposing much quick than the waste of dogs.

Issue 4: Dog poop can create high levels of nitrogen in the soil, killing off native plants that often yield to tougher invasive weeds. Yes, this also means it can kill your beautiful grass. Additionally, nitrogen is released slowly from the poop, so the longer it stays put, the more likely it is to damage your lawn. 

Issue 5: Dog waste is gross! Excessive dog poop smells bad and has visual and social impacts for other visitors.

Issue 6: The biodegradable bags used to collect dog poop don’t always make it to the garbage bin. Based on empirical evidence, we have concluded three reasons why this might happen -

Reason 1 – Imagine you set out for a walk with your dog. 30 seconds in they get antsy and deposit a hot steaming pile of poop right on the trail. It’s got your name written all over it. So you bag it up and leave it there with the intention to pick it up on your way out. You get distracted talking with the neighbors, or maybe you start thinking about what you’re going to cook for dinner and on your way back you walk right past the camouflage green bag of poop. Oops.

Reason 2 – You love dogs, but not dog poop. Plus, you conveniently forgot to bring something to pick it up with. So you decide to leave it there. 

Reason 3 – You recently watched a special on the morning news talking about the benefits of biodegradable pet waste bags. You glance down at the label on the bags attached to your dog’s leash, in bold it says "biodegradable." You figure it’s probably OK to leave the poop right where you bagged it up, so you do.

These forgetful, malicious or uninformed acts make matters worse. The bags act as protection for the poop from the elements, similar to the protection a rain jackets offers, making the waste take longer to break down.  

Issue 7: Cumulative impact – the more waste that is disposed of improperly, the worse the first 6 issues become. 

The bottom line is that, there are a lot of dogs out there, they all poop, some of which is deposited on public lands. As dog owners it is important to recognize that there is no poop fairy. Our beloved pets need your help in order to practice Leave No Trace. Doing your part is really quite simple - use a plastic bag to pack out your pet's waste to a garbage can. Thanks for joining the movement and being responsible with your dog's poop! 

Helping keep our wilderness wild,

Jenna and Sam -  Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Team West

Leave No Trace’s Jenna Hanger and Sam Ovett 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.


Nov 16, 2015

Oxford, MS— Hungry...Stop for a picnic lunch in a municipal park.  Have an urge to fly a kite or toss around the ol’ pigskin?  There is a field in the nearby urban oasis with your name on it.  Have you been cooped up in the office all day and need to stretch your legs?  Pop on some roller-blades and hit the paths at your local green space for some easy-to-access and much needed time outdoors.  As outdoor enthusiasts we, the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer East Central Team, take every opportunity to visit local parks and green spaces while on the road.  City and neighborhood parks provide a place for us to have fun and relax, but it turns out that they have other amazing benefits that we hardly ever think about.  Check out 4 benefits of having parks nearby. 

1) Access to green spaces influence our health:  The Center for Disease Control says there is a direct correlation between having public green spaces and the likelihood that we will exercise.  They continue by saying green spaces aid in the decline of obesity nation wide and associated public health costs.  According to Landscape and Urban Planning having access to the outdoors also reduces your stress levels, which will help you live a happier and longer life.  Amazing right? A little bit of open space can lead to a healthier life.

2) Green Space helps to build a stronger community:  Parks provide a space for people to interact with one another and/or meet a new friend.  Plenty of community activities, like farmers’ markets and concerts, are perfectly suited to take place in local parks.  These community events help build pride around a community or neighborhood.  We often say, “Trash encourages trash”, but it works the other way around too: if members of a community take pride in their spaces, that pride becomes contagious, and creates cohesion in the surrounding neighborhoods.  The Trust for Public Land declares that there have been several cases of lowered crime rates because of community involvement at local parks.

Pie eating contest at a local Pennsylvania community park

3) Parks can improve the environmental conditions of an area:  In a sense, parks offer free environmental services.  For example, a tree can absorb about 3 tons of carbon gas during its lifetime; imagine a park that is lined with trees and the massive benefits a neighborhood (which would otherwise be subjected to poor urban air conditions) could reap.  Aside from improved air conditions, parks help absorb water during massive rainfall and storms.  Even with storm drain systems flooding can occur as a result of blockages or unordinary precipitation—green spaces with open ground is a very efficient tool to absorb rainfall and runoff that could otherwise cause expensive damage.

4) Parks provide a connection to the outdoors:  With 85% of recreation taking place in easily accessible areas like parks, these can be a great way to find our connection to the outdoors.  Through our connection with the outdoors we become educated on how the pieces of the natural world all work together to maintain a balanced ecosystem. Even in an urban setting we need the take care for the environment so we can continue to eat well, recreate in fun places, and enjoy the resources that make time spent with friends and family so great.  Through this connectionto the outdoors we can learn how to protect the environment.

While a lot of us enjoy the open spaces and parks around our communities, it is important to realize that about 2/3rdsof communities in America lack access to parks and open spaces.  Get involved in your community or city to make sure that the same opportunities for urban recreation are extended to all urban dwellers.  There are plenty of volunteer opportunities to show your love for your local parks or open spaces. Get involved by learning about our Leave No Trace In Every Park initiative and give back through volunteering or membership to organizations supporting stewardship and health of our outdoor areas.

Leaving your mark is overrated. 

Katelyn & Blake--- Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers East Central Team

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.


Nov 16, 2015

Tucson, AZ - I reach for a nearby water bottle and sip slowly to wet my lips. I slip my hand into the side pocket of our tent and immediately find my head lamp. After 8 months living out of a tent and working on the road as a Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer I know exactly where it is. Jenna and I have a system, no fumbling here. Still in my sleeping bag I snatch up my down jacket. I quickly and precisely slide it on and zip it up. The morning air is crisp, just the way I like it. I sit up while simultaneously kicking off my ultra cozy sleeping bag. I put on my pants, all the while I try not to wake up Jenna as I open the tent flap, but she’s already up. In a familiar motion I turn around and whisper, “Good Morning. It’s going to be a great day.”

I finish opening the tent door. I reach for my socks on the inside pocket and slip my feet into their magnificent warmth. I put my feet in my shoes as I stand up outside the tent and take a depth breath. I am happy to breath in the mountain air. I walk to our Subaru and open the hatch. Without much thought habit takes over and very soon the coffee is ready as the sun climbs over the ridge line. I take a big gulp, grab our camera from the car, mess with the settings, and snap a few pictures of the sunrise.

As is sometimes inevitable with life on the road, we arrived to this campsite after dark, our expectations set for an amazing view in the morning. At first glance, we got it. It’s gorgeous! This place is amazing. Then as I allow my gaze to drift from the horizon and start to walk around, my shoes release a crunch sound that startles me. As I blink away the fuzziness and focus on the ground, I realize what caused the sound -  a little piece of a candy bar wrapper. We call this micro trash.  

Micro trash is small grain-sized pieces of trash or litter. Some examples of micro trash are torn corners of candy bar wrappers and power bars, plastic bottle caps, random chunks of colorful plastic, broken glass bottles, fruit labels, gum wrappers, cigarette buts, torn off labels of sports bottle drinks and the list goes on.

This little crunch sound awakened me to all the micro trash scattered around the area like Easter eggs that we’d missed in the dim light of night. The juxtaposition of trash and beauty that surrounded me, stopped me in my tracks and weakened my posture. It took away the pep in my step. As Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers we work really hard to teach the importance of trashing your trash and repackaging food to reduce waste, amongst many other outdoor ethics. We also see lots and lots of impacts, which can really wear on us at the end of the day – especially when the impact is avoidable, like is often the case with micro trash litter. So this seemingly small and insignificant piece of trash actually has a big effect on our personal experience. Not to mention the negative roles micro trash can have on an ecosystem. On example of this is the threat micro trash is having on birds.

Natural scavengers and curious birds, like the California Condor, are attracted to little pieces of colorful or shinny trash that stand out in comparison to the rest of the environment. They commonly seek out and consume micro trash, which cannot be digested properly. The cycle worsens when mother Condors bring micro trash to their nest for the Condor chicks. This micro trash can then become lodged in the gastrointestinal track of the chicks and cause impaction, which can prevent the birds from digesting food, ultimately resulting in starvation and death.

In our role as Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers we know that we can make a difference and inspire a sense of stewardship amongst the people we have the pleasure of teaching and interacting with. We also know that the education we provide has to start with ourselves. A favorite quote of mine that has further instilled this concept is, “Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbors roof when your own doorstep is unclean” – Confucius. It’s up to us to practice the Leave No Trace ethic in our personal pursuits. So on this crisp morning, I reached down, picked up the piece of candy bar wrapper, did a quick sweep of the rest of the campsite for micro trash and reminded myself that ‘Yes, impacts exist, but we can do something about them.’ And if there is one thing I have recognized during this journey, it's that the world we live in is filled with magnificent places worth caring for.

At the end of the day, or in this case at the beginning of the day, it is important to remember that this big impact can be avoided by trashing your trash on your next adventure.

Helping keep our wilderness wild,

Jenna and Sam - Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Team West

Leave No Trace’s Jenna Hanger and Sam Ovett 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.