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[pct-l] LNT 3- What is it?

Hello All -

So...what does it hurt if more and more folks are visiting the backcountry?

Lets take a semi-quick look at some of the many ways that we humans can do
damage while we are out there having fun:

Contamination -

This form of damage is both easy and hard to understand.

The easy part is the trash, garbage, human waste, and other highly visible
(or highly smellable!) human byproducts that get left behind.  Nobody wants
to try to make camp in the middle of a trash dump or on top of some slob's
toilet site.

A little harder are those contaminations that take longer to show up.  Like
the soap residue that finally turns sour in the hot sun or the dug-up
grease pit that starts to stink even quicker.  How about the half-burned
and half-rotten garbage in the fire pit or even the toxic chemicals formed
by burning some of our modern materials?

Even harder to spot are the contaminations that slowly build up over time.
Like the ashes that never quite get properly disposed of or the fire stains
on rock slabs, fire-ring rocks, etc.

For me, the hardest contaminations of all to understand were the ones that
are the most fleeting.  Like the boombox (campfire songs, loud games, etc.)
that destroys the night quiet, or the bonfire light that keeps us from
seeing the milky way, or the smoke that drifts over from a neighboring camp
site to strangle us, or the very presence of too many people being in one
place at one time for it to feel wild at all.

Compaction -

Compaction is pretty obvious when it gets bad enough.  The soil is like a
3-dimensional city...with gazillions of little critters (bugs, worms,
microbes, fungi, etc.) that make up its population.  These critters do
great when the soil is loose enough for all to go about their business.
Too many footfalls in the same place slowly pound the soil tighter and
tighter, until finally it is compacted into something approaching a block
of cement.  Fewer and fewer critters can thrive as the soil becomes more
and more compact...until finally the soil becomes sterile and supports no
growth of any kind.

I know that we have all come around a turn of our trail and spotted a camp
site.  How did we know it was a campsite?  One immediate clue, of course,
is that big bare spot that identifies the area used the most.  That big
bare spot is usually a prime example of compacted soil!

Conflagration (sterilization) -

Easiest of all.  Keep building a hot fire over and over in the same place
and we wind up killing all the critters in the soil the fire heats up.

Changing -

Sometimes we humans make "brute-force" changes to our natural surroundings.
We build things, take things, dig soil penetrations (that later become
erosion locations), leave trail markings, hang hot lanterns near tree
trunks, leave unnatural foods that disrupt local critter feeding habits,
and on and on.  We usually do these things for a reason (that is important
to us for only a short time) and create results that often last WAY beyond
our need.

A little less obvious is what happens when we keep stripping the organic
materials from an area.  The organic materials are removed that would
usually slowly decay (providing important above-ground critter habitat in
the process) and finally turn into the organic soil that supports all those
little critters in that subterranean 3-D city.  Keep taking the organics
away and we slowly change the area into a sterile desert.

I like to call the above destruction techniques the "4 C's":

Conflagration (sterilization)

Yeah, I know, it's a little corny...sometimes we have to stretch a bit to
make a memory aid <VBG>.  I like to use the "4 C's" for a name because it
plays so well against a destruction device that even the youngest Scouts
seem to know about nowadays..."C4"...

One of the hardest things for us to realize is that whatever we do is NOT
the only time that it ever gets done.  We are preceded and followed by LOTS
of folks, many of whom are much like us.  They are lazy the same way that
we are lazy and are uneducated the same way that we are uneducated.  If we
start to dump our dishwater at the edge of the shelter, there is a pretty
doggone good chance that tons of folks have done that on a bunch of
yesterdays and will be doing just that on a bunch of tomorrows.

The real damage caused by the "4 C's" isn't in any single thing we
do...it's in what we add to all the other incremental damages that we all
are doing...time after time after time.  Up to a certain point, an
ecosystem can repair itself during the "off season."  Once the accumulated
damage goes beyond that, the damage becomes so permanent that often decades
of rest are required to get back to normal (if ever!).

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the more people we have
out there doing the destructive behaviors...the more destruction we get.
We can force a reduction in the number of folks who would be doing
destructive things (group size restrictions, daily use limits, Rangers
behind every tree, etc.)...or we can voluntarily reduce the destructive
behaviors that we all just naturally tend to do (LNT is simply the art
doing just this)

...or we can slowly destroy our backcountry.

Our choice!

See you at "LNT 4- How?"

- Charlie II  AT (MEGA'93)
             PCT (Mex@Can'95)

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