News & Updates

The Subtle ART of Leave No Trace During the Government Shutdown

Ailsa Walsh - January 14, 2019

What to do when you see less than Leave No Trace happening in national parks while park staff isn’t present.

January 14, 2017: Boulder, CO. The government shutdown has garnered the unfortunate distinction of being the longest in American history, and it’s time to get serious about not only our national parks but all of the federally designated public lands in the country. The situation is now grave with compromised wildlife, human waste littering parks and long-term, sad issues such as the theft and destruction of natural resources.  In California’s Joshua Tree National Park alone, reports of people senselessly chopping down Joshua trees, creating paths for off-roading as well as widespread vandalism has made national news.

Photo: Win McNamee: Getty Images

Many want to help. While 85% of park and public land staffs remain furloughed, organized efforts to clean up these areas remain localized. One thing that everyone can do is to practice a Leave No Trace skill called “Authority of the Resource” or ART, when it seems like a safe and potentially productive solution. Learn more about Authority of the Resource if visits to federally managed lands are in your plans during the shut down.

Also, please consider our most pressing important recommendations for the duration of the shutdown:

  1. Develop a Plan B: Choose an alternative to national parks and other federal lands if at all possible. The country has many vast and sweeping state parks and municipal lands, many adjacent or nearby. So if you can, give our national lands a breather.
  2. Pack It Out: Plan ahead and prepare takes on an elevated meaning during the shutdown. Make sure that you equip yourself with extra bags for any potential trash that you generate and plan to remove all of it from the park. Pack out trash left behind by others to lessen potential impacts on wildlife, waterways, and the environment in general.
  3. It’s Time To Try: Given that many restroom facilities on federal lands are closed or already compromised, the use of biodegradable, disposable toilet-in-a-bag-type products is essential. Even if it has never been in your repertory, this is a tremendously important commitment you must make to protect wildlife, water sources and fellow users. Contact your local outdoor retailer and ask if they have Restop, Clean Waste, Biffy Bags or comparable products so you can pack out your human waste.
  4. Share Well With Others: With a lack of critical personnel on site at areas, many visitors will not receive important Leave No Trace information they would otherwise absorb from rangers. Share Leave No Trace far and wide with those around you. You may find that people are very receptive to hearing from you during the shutdown.

Most importantly, if you are enjoying federal lands, do so with a gentle touch. All of us here at Leave No Trace hope, for the sake of our beloved outdoors, that the shutdown ends soon. If it continues, we will share more information with you about efforts to help by our thousands of passionate members and partners. We will also continue to bring you the best Leave No Trace information to help you make good decisions about enjoying our shared lands responsibly during this precarious time.


Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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