Leave No Trace - Leave What You Find - Part II

One of the great joys of being in our wild places is the discovery and enjoyment of beautiful and natural landscapes. These unique environments - unchanged from their naturally occurring state - are the reason we venture into our National Parks, National Forests, and wilderness areas.

It is vital to respect these places and leave these natural resources in their natural state. When at all possible, in every way possible, our wild lands should not bear the mark of our visits.

Initial carved into a living aspen tree bark.

The fourth principle of Leave No Trace is Leave What You Find. This is an important principle of the Leave No Trace ethics and the key to maintaining the beauty of our wilderness environments. 

We are exploring this principle throughout the month of October. 

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Why Is this Important?

We implore you to remember that our wilderness spaces and Public Lands are shared resources for everyone to enjoy. The resources and objects found within these spaces do not belong to any one person. These areas, and the unique objects within them, belong to us all.

It is the responsibility of all users of wilderness environments to respect the sanctity of these shared spaces. When it comes to special objects and resources found in these places the rule of thumb is this - Leave What You Find

Leave It Unchanged

There is no need to improve on the perfection of nature. The natural landscape, in it’s natural state, is beautiful to behold and home to numerous plants and animals.

Altering the natural landscape - including the creation of fire rings, moving of logs and other natural objects, or cutting of vegetation - is destructive and unnecessary. The creation of fire rings can destroy animal and insect habitat when rocks are moved. The fire itself also causes destruction of the ground and plants underneath the fire ring. It can take a very long time for the environment to recover. (if at all)

The cutting of trees for firewood, camp furniture, or ‘fun’ is also discouraged for similar reasons. Also avoid altering the position of rocks, vegetation, and other natural surface cover when possible. If you clear an area of surface rocks, twigs or pine cones, replace these items before leaving.

Remember that the best campsites are found - not built. Do you absolutely need to have a fire when you are camping? Okay! We encourage you to make a reservation in one of our amazing Parks with established fire rings.

A stone fire ring in a field of grass with charred ground inside the fire ring.

Don’t Pick the Flowers

We love our local wildflowers and know you do too! They are beautiful, fragile, and amazing. They also belong in their natural environment untouched and undisturbed.

Many of our native plants and flowers, including the beautiful Trillium flowers shown below, have very specific needs and delicate reproductive cycles. Picking a Trillium flower often means that a Trillium will never bloom again in that particular spot.

Picking wildflowers in general has a similar impact. Many of our local wildflowers only release seeds in a very narrow window of time. Picking the flowers and/or removing them from their natural habitat often means that that the seeds do not have a chance to be released. This can result in a dramatic reduction of wildflower populations. These flowers are not only beautiful. They are also food for many of our native animals and insects.

Two white trillium flowers in bloom in a forest.

As the old saying goes, leave only footprints and take only memories. Our precious natural areas will thank you for it. And we will too! Thank you.


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