Developed more than 25 years ago, the 7 Leave No Trace Principles address issues of trash, pollution, harm to wildlife, damage, and destructive fires in natural areas. Today, these principles remain valuable guidelines for how each of us can individually play a role in protecting our environment.
Learn how to be a good steward of the earth while enjoying the outdoors. Together we can keep our local parks and natural areas clean and safe for everyone!
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Before visiting a local park, here are some of the ways planning and preparing can help you protect the local environment:
- Be aware of trash receptacle locations. Will you need to bring your own bags to carry out your trash?
- Review regulations about glass, cooler, and food restrictions.
- Talk with your kids about the importance of cleaning up after themselves. Ask everyone in your group to dispose of their trash before moving on to other activities.
- Consider bringing reusable containers, plates, and silverware to limit the amount of trash created.
- Unexpected rain storms may cause a quick exit. Have a plan for how to clean up quickly in the event of inclement weather.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Staying on trails and camping in designated areas helps protect natural areas. When too many people trample on non-designated areas, it can destroy the natural landscape, lead to erosion, and cause harm to animals that depend on this vegetation. Use trail maps and signage to understand what spaces are meant to be protected.
Dispose of Waste Properly
It’s easy to think that a few pieces of trash won’t matter. But, when everyone thinks this way, it leads to mass quantities of litter and waste. This not only ruins the natural look of scenic places, but it also can be dangerous to water sources, people, and animals in the area. Trash often makes its way to water sources causing pollution and harm to birds and fish. Broken glass and other sharp objects can cause injuries. Human food can make animals ill or lead them to approach people more aggressively. Waste can also lead to human illnesses.
Some guidelines to keep in mind:
- If necessary, put trash into proper receptacles or pack it out (bring it home with you).
- Recycle appropriate items when possible.
- Follow posted public toilet disposal rules to avoid clogging and other issues.
- Pick up waste from your pets and dispose of it in proper containers.
- Remember that littering is illegal and can result in hefty fines.
Leave What You Find
Take only photographs! Removal of sand, shells, flowers, rocks, and other items detracts from the natural environment. Each also plays an ecological role in keeping beaches nourished, seeding future vegetation, or as homes, food, and protection for animals. Educate yourself on local conservation laws about removing these and other items.
This principle also applies to leaving natural and man-made items as you found them. Refrain from carving or writing names and other graffiti onto trees, rocks, and structures. Use only sticks found on the ground for fires and do not cut limbs or sticks from trees. Be aware that moving rocks in rivers can disrupt animals and natural water flows.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Use caution when making campfires and using grills in parks, campgrounds, and other natural areas. Make fires only in designated areas, supervise at all times, and ensure they are completely extinguished before leaving. Be aware of any fire bans due to drought or dry seasons.
By following each of the above principles, you are already respecting wildlife by protecting them from our trash and avoiding disrupting the natural environment. Additionally, do not touch or feed wildlife as it can cause harm to them or potentially to yourself. Store food in proper containers. And keep your pets away from animals in the wild.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
The above principles are also ways we can be considerate of other visitors by keeping natural areas clean and safe. Additionally, it is helpful to be aware of trail guidelines, such as keeping to the right or calling out “on your left” when passing walkers or other bikers on your bicycle. Maintaining noise and music at appropriate levels is also an important way to be respectful of others who are there to enjoy the outdoors. Also, keep pets under control and follow leash regulations.
Our parks and natural areas are there to be enjoyed by many people. When we each do our part, it is a gift to the people who come to visit after us. Our individual responsibility ensures that we can continue to use our parks to play, exercise, enjoy the outdoors, gather together, celebrate occasions, and create memories. Teaching our children these principles gives them the tools to also protect and preserve our natural environment. Let’s each do our part for tomorrow’s visitors and for future generations.
This content is brought to you by Metroparks. One of America’s premier metropolitan park systems, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have served the people of Southeast Michigan since 1940. Managed by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the Metroparks are made up of 13 properties in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. The Metroparks are open 365 days a year and encompass 25,000 acres of nature and recreational facilities. Each year more than 1.5 million people engage with the Metroparks to enjoy amenities such as picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, nature study, biking, golf, disc golf, cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and a diversity of outdoor programs and special events. The Metroparks also provide educational resources on science, nature, history and the environment. Learn more at Metroparks.com.