Learning to enjoy nature without leaving mark

It’s not too late to preserve nature for wildlife and future generations if people learn to minimize their impact outdoors.

It’s not too late to preserve nature for wildlife and future generations if people learn to minimize their impact outdoors.

The nonprofit Leave No Trace Canada has taken the lead to educate anyone involved in non-motorized sports in the Alberta’s scenic backcountry.

The seven-principle philosophy to help save the outdoors was developed by the United States forestry department in the early 1960s, for a country where some natural areas have been spoiled.

“There’s a lot of places in the U.S. where they won’t let people go anymore. It’s been trampled down so much there’s no undergrowth in certain forests,” said Debbie Vanberkel, Leave No Canada master trainer and past chairman.

“We don’t want to get to that point. We’re known around the world for having this gorgeous backcountry. If we help it now, we’ll be so much better off.”

Kerry Wood Nature Centre had to cancel it’s first Leave No Trace Workshop on Saturday due to low enrolment.

Todd Nivens, the centre’s program co-ordinator, said the outdoor ethics promoted by Leave No Trace is “vitally important” and another workshop could be planned for the fall if people are interested.

“When we use the backcountry, we’re visitors to the backcountry,” Nivens said.

“As much as we don’t want people coming into our own places and yards making a mess and impacting on us, we need to recognize the animals and plants that live in the backcountry year round need that resource available to them.”

Vanberkel, of Calgary, said simple things can make a difference, like reducing the area where people walk. It’s an activity she’s seen change the landscape near a picnic area next to the Kananaskis River.

“Over the years, I’ve noticed that the whole embankment has eroded away from people just going down there and washing their dishes. Now nature is taking over as the Kananaskis River goes through there. It’s eroding even more.”

“That kind of impact may seem so small, but it’s going to grow and become huge.”

The seven principles of Leave No Trace include:

l Plan ahead and prepare.

l Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

l Dispose of waste properly.

l Leave what you find.

l Minimize campfire impacts.

l Respect wildlife.

l Be considerate of other visitors.

One of Vanberkel’s favourite outdoor workshop exercises is to get participants to plot surveying flags where they would dig a latrine holes.

“It really becomes a visual impact for people. Looking at the flags, seeing the impact of that size of a group being out there with no latrine in the area.”

There are ways to minimize the impact if there’s no pre-built latrine, like taking their used toilet paper with them, she said.

“We call them white paper flowers because you see them when you’re out there. You see them all over the place.”

Leave No Trace is not about strict rules, but rather learning what kind of footprint is left by hikers, campers, skiers, canoeists and drivers when they dismount their ATVs, Vanberkel said.

“You do one principle, you’re doing great. If you do two, that’s fantastic. If you do more, that’s even better. You don’t have to do them all. Doing one is going to help.”

For more information, go to www.leavenotrace.ca

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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