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LNT - answering mail

Hello All -

Earlier I said:

>...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

Wow...even better thread than I had hoped!

By the time I got my threads sorted out (DANG those pesky {AT-L]'s!), I had
completely lost the order in which I had received the various
messages...but here goes anyway:

Yes, EMPRESS, there IS a unified theory on fire building <VBG>.  The Boy
Scouts are in the process of shifting from the older (now a little
out-of-date) "Low Impact Camping" to "Leave No Trace" (more about LNT &
fire later).  I think that the Girl Scouts have already shifted over to LNT
as a standard operating practice.

Yes, Rick & Jeff, Boy Scouting has a long history of teaching skills like:
making beds out of evergreens, using saplings for campcrafts and timbers
for pioneering projects, making large bonfires for ceremonial and
fellowship purposes, and using campfires for cooking and warmth.  We used
to teach all this stuff...and still do!  IMHO, we would be remiss if we
didn't <g>.  The $64 question should not be IF we do it...rather, it should
be WHERE and WHEN we do it...and for what reason!

IMHO, Scouting certainly teaches us that we all owe it to everybody (you,
me, our grand kids) to try to leave the world a little better place than we
found it.  Somebody (Dr. Killdare...or was it Trapper John?) said that if
we couldn't help...at least we should do no harm.  I cut my eyeteeth on Ayn
Rand...I don't see anything wrong with being selfish enough to want to
preserve plenty of nice backcountry for me and mine to play in <g>.

Our Scouting program uses the outdoors as an educational tool.  We grow
kids...and our growth environment is the woods.  We do a LOT of team
building (pioneering projects, group backpacking trips, etc.) and training
(campcraft, leadership, etc.) and fellowship (social campfires, ceremonies,
gatherings, etc.) in those woods because those are the methods that we
happen to use to grow our kids.  That DON'T mean that we gotta trash those
woods <g>.

The key is to always be as gentle as we can on the environment and to
choose appropriate places to do our thing.  IMHO, if our activities are
inherently damaging to the backcountry (making fires, cutting timbers,
digging holes, etc.), then we should use property that we control the use
of (owned or borrowed).  It then becomes incumbent on us to fix whatever we
tear up and to live with the mess in the meantime.  I am NOT suggesting
that we strip mine or store radioactive waste on Scout properties <VBG>...I
am suggesting that we use our own properties (or public lands set aside for
such use) for large gatherings, bonfires, construction projects that
disturb the land, etc.  BTW, Boy Scouting does just that...we have saved
our pennies and we now own hundreds of thousands of acres around the USA
which we use, day in and day out, for this type of training.

If we venture off of Scout properties, then we need to abide by the rules
of the road...and that would be LNT for the huge majority of our public
recreation lands <g>.  Perhaps that pristine wilderness area next door
might NOT be the place to do survival training (foraging for food, survival
shelters, etc.).  Maybe a heavily used public trail such as the AT (or,
say, Bright Angel in the Grand Canyon) might NOT be a very good place to
train novice backpackers.  For me, the key is appropriate use of all our
backcountry resources.

Jim, I absolutely agree that it shouldn't be "all or nothing"...it's that
kind of thinking that got us into our current mess in the first place <g>.
The feds traditionally encouraged established campsites in popular
backcountry areas ...even to the point of "enhancing" them to make them
more convenient (access roads, trails, shelters, piped springs, etc.).  As
I was told, over the years they became alarmed at the damage being done to
these heavily used public areas and instituted a "dispersion" policy.
Roving crews were paid to wander around and "erase" as many campsites as
they could find.  Signs, cairns, and even some trails were eliminated.  The
theory was to encourage campers to spread their impact out over the entire
backcountry...thus minimizing the damage done to any one spot.  The ACTUAL
result was considerable damage being done all over the backcountry...in
many areas the whole place started to look like an overused campsite!  I
have been told that SNP is a prime example of past misuse of dispersion.  I
have seen (with my very own eyes <g>) what has happened in Cohutta
Wilderness Area (in GA near where TN & NC meet).  Bummer!

LNT teaches that there isn't any one way to do anything!  I think that,
with LNT, we have finally institutionalized the "hike your own hike"
philosophy <VBG>.  I always start out my LNT training sessions by defining
the continuum that ranges from "highly impacted" to "pristine" backcountry.
The rest of the session then is simply a discussion on when it might be
appropriate to visit either extreme (or in between) and what we can do to
minimize our personal impact on the environment where ever we choose to
visit.  IMHO, it is ALWAYS better to choose an impacted site if it suits
our needs ...the incremental damage we do is MUCH less when most of the
damage has already been done.  If we want to do pristine, then we gotta pay
the piper...we need to know some special camping techniques and be
disciplined enough to use them!

Michael (Vaughn), I love your postings!  Please don't visit any of my LNT
training sessions in the future...you might just recognize some of the new
verbiage I will be using <VBG>.  I completely agree with 99.99% of your
overall message.  BUT:

>...Scouts should be trained to build fires only in emergencies...

I think that you are a little too nice <g>.  I have no problem at all with
being a little willing to bust their chops when Scouts (or anybody) let an
"emergency" happen.  If they freeze their bippy a little, then they will be
better prepared in the future!  I don't suggest that we let anybody
die...but, I sure don't mind letting them get dadgum uncomfortable...

>... Campers who build fires solely for pleasure are certainly at liberty
>to do >so (I totally agree with the maxim "hike your own hike") but they
>should >consider the consequences of building the fire and make their own
>objective >decisions...

Should we just roll over and let folks damage an area beyond any hope of
natural recovery?  Why should I have to pay (taxes or fees or dues or
sweat...) to have a site reclamation crew (ain't particularly cheap in $ or
sweat!) come in and fix the damage done by uncaring jerks or ignorant
neophytes.  Why shouldn't it be appropriate to insist that backcountry
users learn how to conduct themselves in the woods and then do it...or we
hire somebody to convince them (warnings, fines, arrest, public flogging,
cement swim fins, break their knees, make them eat GORP and then make them
sleep in a tent, etc.).

Hmmmm...maybe we SHOULD try the education approach first.  An ethic has GOT
to be a lot better than a storm trooper with a ticket book!

y'all come,
            Charlie II

charlie2@ro.com    Huntsville,Al