Leave No Trace

6 minute read

Deep inside most of us, there’s a delight in being confronted by a vista of nature untrammelled by humans. The principles of Leave No Trace are a guide for how we can enjoy the outdoors sustainably.

It’s a fair generalisation to say that the more natural the outdoor activity location is, the more exciting and fulfilling it will be. Of course, such experiences are not necessarily easy, and that is the point for many of us because the harder any such excursion is, the more we tend to get out of it.

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Wilderness Travel

Some people prefer a trackless wilderness, though most of us, in a vehicle or on foot would like some kind of rudimentary path to follow. Others prefer well-made trails, gently graded and stepped, but whatever the type of track we follow, most prefer the landscape to look as natural as possible.

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I’ve yet to meet anyone who approves of routes that leave a scar on the landscape whether it’s erosion, a trampled bog or because they are litter-strewn. These visual scars are signs of heavy use and abuse and are offensive to what we sense as natural.

Also, of course, what we sense as ‘natural’ can depend on our level of experience. To someone unfamiliar with the wilder parts of the world any landscape away from roads and buildings can seem ‘natural’ but as that person ventures further and more often into the natural world their senses become more discerning and less tolerant of ‘unnatural’ intrusions into the landscape.

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I remember as a novice walker taking comfort from stumbling across a large signpost on a remote summit but then as I quickly gained experience, coming to loathe that and other signs, seeing them as ugly and unnecessary intrusions.

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I found I went through the same process with litter myself. At first not being too affected by the odd bottle or tin left behind by stockmen, loggers or other walkers, even thinking myself that in really remote places it was acceptable to ‘burn, bash and bury’ my litter. In time, of course, I saw that others visited these places and as others’ trash became more offensive to me, I realised I was part of the problem too – I was learning the hard way.

I think most of us need to learn how to go about being in the wild in a way which leaves no trace or as little trace as possible. The Leave No Trace organisation aims to help in the preservation of our natural heritage by providing and promoting a code of practice on how best to leave no trace in the places we love.

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Global Organization

Leave No Trace was founded in the United States and works internationally including through four international branch organisations: Leave No Trace Australia, Leave No Trace New Zealand, Leave No Trace Canada and Leave No Trace Ireland.

Leave No Trace partners with a broad range of organisations worldwide, including scouting and a variety of parks management services and outdoor education organisations.

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The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace

Seven principles make up these guidelines:

  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimise campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of your hosts and other visitors.

In future instalments in our Protect the Wild category we’ll be elaborating on each of these principles.

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Learn More

To read more about the organisation and to find out how to get involved, visit Leave No Trace, Leave No Trace Australia, Leave No Trace New Zealand, Leave No Trace Canada or Leave No Trace Ireland.

Words by Tim Macartney-Snape and photographs by Mike Collister.

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Avatar Of Tim Macartney-Snape

In 1984 Tim Macartney-Snape, along with Greg Mortimer, was the first Australian to summit Everest. In 1990 he summited again, this time human-powered from the Bay of Bengal! Tim has a passion for storytelling and for instilling his love of the environment. He is the Chairman for Leave No Trace Australia, assists with staff training and the pioneering of new routes for World Expeditions and co-founded the outdoor brand Sea to Summit.


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