Behaving Responsibly in the Woods

According to Webster's Dictionary, the word ethics relates to a set of moral principles. Those things you do when no one is looking. Outdoor ethics are principles for our behavior in the outdoors. Whether backpacking deep in the backcountry or camping in a campground, these principles help us to minimize our impact to the environment.

Outdoor ethics is based on the idea that we are all stewards of the environment and should provide careful and responsible management of our great outdoors so that this generation and those to come can enjoy it. Many of these principles also help us to have a more enjoyable and safer trip.

There are several outstanding organizations that teach outdoor enthusiasts the importance of these outdoor ethics.

Leave No Trace (LNT)

Leave No Trace is both a set of principles, and an organization that promotes those principles. The principles are designed to assist outdoor enthusiasts with their decisions about how to reduce their impacts when they are in the outdoors. The organization strives to educate all those who enjoy the outdoors about the nature of their recreational impacts as well as techniques to prevent and minimize such impacts.

By promoting and following the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace1, you blend your visit with the natural environment and serve as a steward of our public lands.

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Whether you are going on a short walk from town or on a long expedition into the backcountry, we ask that you embrace Leave No Trace and that you encourage others to do the same.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics

1The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org

Tread Lightly!

Tread Lightly!® is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to promote responsible outdoor recreation through ethics education and stewardship. Tread Lightly!®’s educational message, along with its training and restoration initiatives, are strategically designed to instill an ethic of responsibility in a wide variety of outdoor enthusiasts and the industries that serve them.

Along with the Seven principles of Leave No Trace, Tread Lightly! Principles will make you a well-rounded responsible visitor to the great outdoors:

  • Travel Responsibly on land by staying on designated roads, trails and areas. Go over, not around, obstacles to avoid widening the trails. Cross streams only at designated fords. When possible, avoid wet, muddy trails. On water, stay on designated waterways and launch your watercraft in designated areas.
  • Respect the Rights of Others including private property owners, all recreational trail users, campers and others so they can enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed. Leave gates as you found them. Yield right of way to those passing you or going uphill. On water, respect anglers, swimmers, skiers, boaters, divers and those on or near shore.
  • Educate Yourself prior to your trip by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies. Plan for your trip, take recreation skills classes and know how to operate your equipment safely.
  • Avoid Sensitive Areas on land such as meadows, lakeshores, wetlands and streams. Stay on designated routes. This protects wildlife habitats and sensitive soils from damage. Don't disturb historical, archeological or paleontological sites. On water, avoid operating your watercraft in shallow waters or near shorelines at high speeds.
  • Do Your Part by modeling appropriate behavior, leaving the area better than you found it, properly disposing of waste, minimizing the use of fire, avoiding the spread of invasive species and repairing degraded areas.