Outdoor Safety & Ethics

Outdoor Ethics

Leave No Trace

Before you leave the Forest, use the motto "pack out what you pack in" so that you leave the Forest in good condition for the next visitor. Pick up trash and put out fires before you depart. Follow the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.

Safety Guidelines

Hiking Precautions

  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return
  • Read all trail head signs and follow local regulations
  • Stay on the trail
  • Hike in groups
  • Don't hike in the dark
  • Leave pets at home. Pets may attract bears and mountain lions. If dogs are permitted, keep them on a short leash so they don't bother wildlife.
  • Carry EPA registered bear pepper spray when hiking and camping in bear country
  • Keep children within your sight

Camping Precautions

If you are setting up a campsite, RV or tent, please be aware of your proximity to a stream or stream channel.  Flash flooding can occur quickly, without warning and from storms at a great distance from your site so place your site away from a stream channel.

  • Set up cooking, eating and supply areas at least 100 yards from your sleeping area.
  • Use bear resistant food containers, where available or required, to store food and odorous items when not in use
  • Keep sleeping bags and tents completely free of food, beverages, and odorous items
  • Do not sleep in the clothes you cook or handle fish and game in. The odors may attract wildlife.
  • Keep a flashlight and bear pepper spray readily available

Abandoned Mines

Abandoned mine sites can be great safety hazards. Each year, a number of people are killed or injured nationally in abandoned mines. Many of these structures contain dilapidated frames, open shafts, and water-filled pits. The dangers that are found in the mines include old explosives, hazardous chemicals, snakes, spiders, mice, and bats. Entrance puts a person at risk for hazards such as falls and cave-ins.

Visitors also find these areas as accessible dumping grounds for trash. This can cause a vessel for infestations and contact with wild animals. In the process of dumping into these mines, many slips and falls are incurred, which can lead to entrapment in the mines, serious injuries and possible death.

The unmined mineral deposits can cause contamination to the surrounding water systems. Some of these systems serve as municipal water supplies for nearby citizens. The Forest Service, along with other land management agencies, is involved in ensuring the safety of the water supply and preventing contact with contaminated waters.

No one knows the exact location of all the abandoned mines over the great American lands. Therefore we cannot warn the public of the existence of all abandon mines. However, we work diligently to assess our lands and assist the public by warning of the known sites.

Fire Safety

In recent years, the Forest Service has experienced catastrophic events while working to suppress wildland fires. These events have created a renewed awareness and concern about safety, the impacts of wildland fire, and the integration of fire and resource management. As a result, many actions have been implemented to improve the safety and protect lives while fighting forest fires. Safe, effective and efficient wildland fire operations require a thorough understanding of many policies, principles and procedures.

The Fire Safety web site will provide a lot of additional information on the severity of wildland fires and safety measures used. In addition, an Interim Field Guide has been prepared to help implement the Healthy Forests Initiative and Healthy Forests Restoration Act.

Hazardous Material

The beautiful and cascading natural lands can be eye catchers for illegal hazardous waste dumpers. These dumpers often leave materials which range in type from syringes and materials used to make or use illegal drugs, to hazardous chemicals. Our employees and national forest and grassland visitors could easily be exposed to these substances.

Dump sites can cause many problematic areas. Disease-carrying rodents and insects are attracted to these sites. Injury from accidental contact with sharp objects or chemical inhalation are possible threats to employees and visitors. These materials, which are often combustible, also pose increase risk for forest fires.

Visitors to our National Forests and Grasslands are encouraged to use public trash receptacles for household trash. Visitors should dispose hazard waste, at a commercial facility. Some examples of hazardous waste include automotive trash such as antifreeze, batteries, used oil, and empty propane cylinders.

Personal Health

Personal health and well being should be a concern of all activities of daily living. This includes those activities that are done for recreational enjoyment. Though often not encountered, there are some health hazards that have potential exposure for those visiting our lands. To become familiar with these hazards, click on the following links for an in depth explanation of the process, potential for exposure, and safety measures.

For more information on health related hazards see:

Tree Safety

All that looks green is not green through and through. A standing tree could have the possibility of causing serious injuries to persons and property. Trees can become hazardous due to significant flaws or structural damages. Every tree will fail over a life span. The Forest Service expends time and energy to gain knowledge of each tree species, site characteristics, and local weather conditions to minimize the risk to our employees, structures, and property. The Forest Service is also involved in timber cutting to provide resources for our nation. Although this service has been executed for many years, there remains a danger to those involved in the procedure.

Visitor Safety

When visiting our National Forests and Grasslands remember to always be aware, alert and cautious. Some visitors have different agendas besides relaxation, exploration and recreation. These agendas may include drug production, theft, arson, and other illegal acts. Avoiding these areas if discovered is the safest course of action. Report sightings to local law enforcement personnel only after you have relocated to a safe area.

Illegal border crossers have been suspected of running drugs, injuring government employees and causing major wildfires. Besides carrying ammunition and guns, they also can carry tents, propane cylinders and other flammable agents. Improperly used these items can be sources of ignition causing forest fires. These illegal inhabitants can become dangerous if they feel threatened and should be avoided.

Marijuana plots and methamphetamine labs have become frequent sites in our forests. Those responsible for these illegal plots or labs are dangerous and should be avoided. If visitors inadvertently come upon these sites they should immediately depart the area and report the sighting to law enforcement officers. The chemicals used to grow or produce these illegal products can be highly combustible and pose considerable risk to hazards caused by fire and explosion.