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Scouting out LNT
Hello All -
Hooboy...finally a chance to read the back email <g>.
A while back Sandy said (in reference to some Girl Scout leader training):
>I was concerned when the leaders whipped out bow saws and showed us how to
>use 'em. "Isn't that against leave no trace ethics?" asked I...I
>asked "why not just search for deadwood" and they said, yes, we use the bow
>saws for cutting deadwood, not green.
>Still, I thought the age of live fires on hiking trails was behind us...
Discussing Leave No Trace (LNT) minimum impact backcountry use techniques
is always a hoot! It is a great subject for debate and the conversations
usually get quite interesting about the time we get around to campfires
(and toilet paper!).
I first became interested in minimum impact camping "styles" when I was in
Alaska in the early 60's. The quality difference between popular (heavily
used) camping spots and the truly completely pristine wilderness (you gotta
see it to believe it!) was striking. It didn't take a rocket scientist to
see that ever increasing recreational demands on the backcountry was going
to wind up making more and more of the latter look just like the
former...<f>. I watched some awesome countryside "disappear" in just the
few years that I was up there...it sure made a believer out of me!
Futzed around a little with "Green Feet" and "Ghost Walkers" and
"Ecoaction" and other very local and very amateur (long on emotion and a
little short on science <g>) attempts to stop the trend of increasing abuse
to favorite chunks of woods. Had a lot of fun, met some interesting
characters, got some outfitters and managing agency folks hopping mad...and
honestly didn't do diddley towards helping solve any part of the
backcountry degradation problem.
Got involved with Scouts when my oldest son got that age...and discovered
that they have been teaching "Low Impact Camping" for decades.
Unfortunately, the Low Impact message was buried deeply in the mass of
training information that Scouters are asked to wade through. Many leaders
(probably the large majority) never got to hear the message at all and, if
they did, it was usually taught by a volunteer who wasn't a true
"born-again" believer <g>.
I became a Scoutmaster and started noticing (over the years) the reactions
that many folks had when they blundered into a group of Scouts in the
woods. Most were full of stories about the great times they had as Scouts
and were duly appreciative that we were trying to "make a difference" in
these kid's lives. A few were wishing that we would go make that
difference somewhere else...like a football stadium or a parking lot or
Tasmania or somewhere...anywhere but in their woods <g>.
I started noticing references in the outdoor literature to a "Leave No
Trace" minimum impact backcountry use "system" or "way of thinking."
Grabbed at a chance to go to a "Master of Leave No Trace" course put on by
the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) for the Forest Service in
North Carolina. Three Boy Scouters (one volunteer and two professionals),
four Girl Scouters (one volunteer and three professionals), some ATC and
FTA folks, an Outward Bound manager, and a flock of Forest Service types
(male & female, rangers to desk jockeys, working stiffs & management, etc.)
spent a week in the woods with four NOLS instructors. Had an absolute ball!
That was the spring of '93...been teaching it ever since.
The "Leave No Trace" program is the one that I have been hunting for the
last 30 years <g>. IMHO, this "backcountry use philosophy" will finally be
able to do the job because of two major reasons:
1) The LNT "system" is represented by a broad range of
principles/guidelines which (it's hoped) will point the way for each of us
toward a well-developed personal wilderness ethic. This ethic represents a
"way of thinking" that allows us to make appropriate decisions no matter
where we are or what kind of fun we are having in the outback. LNT is not
intended to be just a narrow set of rules that have to be memorized, fit
only certain backcountry conditions, and quickly go out of date as the
recreation ecologists learn more.
2) For the first time, most of the major backcountry land managing agencies
are singing off the same sheet of music! LNT was developed as a program
(NOLS was brought in to help develop the literature and the training) and
then put on hold while the various agency lawyers slugged it out. When the
dust settled, some 32 of the federal agencies who manage recreation lands
had signed the LNT memorandum of understanding (all but the DoD and the
Corps of Engineers <g>). Now, *** FOR THE FIRST TIME ***, you will see
similar trailhead displays put up by the biggies (U.S.Forest Service,
Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and U.S.Fish and Wildlife
Service). State and local agencies (public and private) are starting to
follow the federal lead (as we speak!).
Shoot, even a deeply bureaucratic and hidebound ("steeped in the traditions
and lore of yesteryear" <g>) organization like the Boy Scouts is coming
around! The latest (10th) edition of the Boy Scout Handbook has a lot of
LNT built into its pages. Our Philmont Scout Ranch has helped research
minimum impact techniques for high-use areas for decades (some 15-20
thousand backpackers use its 300+ miles of trails each season!)...and, as
of last year, is fully on the LNT bandwagon. We have presented LNT
"quickie intro's" to over 13,000 Scouts/leaders at the '93 National
Jamboree and '94/'96 National Order of the Arrow conferences. We have a
LNT award (kind of like a merit badge <g>) slowly percolating its way
through the various required levels of approvals. We plan to be at the '97
National Jamboree and are setting up (two places at once <g>) to present
LNT to 20-25 thousand Scouts and Scouters!
Sandy, I am not involved in Girl Scouting (my daughter chose to be a BSA
Sea Explorer), but I have run into enough sharp LNT trainers wearing Girl
Scout pins to know that they are certainly up to something good! I have
run into a few GS groups on the AT and have to admit that, on the average,
they are better trained in LNT techniques than the BSA groups I meet. For
that matter, I would have to put them ahead of the average group of Sierra
Clubbers (they talk the talk a LOT better than they walk the walk...<f>)
and WELL ahead of the general population of thru-hikers that I have run
So...hmmmm...what about those campfires, bow saws and deadwood you were
asking about? I just looked back over this message and realized how long
it got (all by itself...<g>). I will enjoy reading the other messages I
see waiting with "Scouting" and "campfire" buried amongst the [AT-L]'s in
the subject fields (some have been very interesting, so far!) and will do
LNT and fires in another message. Got to go paint the front porch while it