Outdoor Ethics

Several stalks of bluebell flowersWhat are They?

Think of your most enjoyable trip to the National Forest. Did you set up in a clean campsite? Enjoy a peaceful evening during the campground quiet hours? See lots of wildflowers along the trail? If you did then the people around you were practicing good outdoor ethics and thinking of the next visitor.

Outdoor ethics are made up of the conduct and behavior you use while you are in the outdoors. They can be practiced in the wilderness, along scenic byways or in developed campgrounds. 

As visitors and stewards of your National Forest Service Lands using common courtesy and minimizing impacts will help make more enjoyable memories for visitors and preserve the land for the next generation.

The information and website links on the right column can provide some thoughts and information on how to practice strong outdoor ethics. 

Be considerate of others

  • Public lands are for everyone. Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their outdoor experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises (this includes playing music loudly on your mobile device or speaker)!

Camp responsibly

  • Creating new campsites kills vegetation and leads to soil erosion. If possible, use an existing site, or pick a site where vegetation is absent.
  • Keep campsites small.
  • Pick a spot where vegetation is absent.
  • Never dig a trench or build a tent platform.
  • Respect living trees. By carving or chopping into the trunks of trees, people unknowingly damage the tree by slitting veins right below the bark. These veins transport nutrients and water throughout the tree. If the damage becomes severe, it will deprive the tree of nutrients and food, and the tree slowly starves to death.
  • Choose your campsite, park your car and wash at least 200 feet from rivers, streams, lakes or wetlands. 
  • Use biodegradable soap or plain water when washing.

Answering nature’s call

Bacteria and viruses found in human feces are known to cause hepatitis, salmonella, giardia, and other gastro-intestinal diseases. Remember, the water in the rivers and lakes you visit may flow into your own drinking water supply. Please follow these simple steps if a public restroom is not available:

  • Find a spot at least 200 feet from any water source.
  • Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and bury human waste.
  • Pack out used toilet paper and feminine products. Animals will dig up those products and scatter them around the area.
  • Several types of waste-disposal products are on the market that come with enzymes that immediately begin breaking down solid waste.
  • A leak-proof portable toilet or other self-contained receptacle is another option.

Keep forest creatures wild

  • Do not approach or follow wildlife—observe from a distance.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
  • Leash your dog to keep it and wildlife safe.
  • Do not feed wildlife—let them feed themselves. Store your rations and trash safely, securely, and out of reach.

Tread Lightly!

Tread Lightly! is a nonprofit organization that offers educational materials, ethics training, restoration funding, networking opportunities and many other tools. As a current partner with the National Forest Service it is a great resource for education training and materials. To learn more about thier programs visit the Tread Lightly! website.