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  • Writer's picturePublic Lands Hate You

Leave No Trace Center - For Public Lands or For Profit?

***Posted to the @PublicLandsHateYou Instagram account on 1/14/2020.***

In writing the article mentioned in the last post, I spent some time delving into the Leave No Trace Center (LNTC). The LNTC has a fascinating history and owes much of it’s original programing to the federal land management agencies. In fact, LNTC still operates under a memorandum of understanding with those agencies.

However, in recent years it seems that LNTC has made a hard pivot from its original message of respecting public lands to focusing more on protecting its lucrative corporate sponsorships. My article “Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics – For Public Lands or For Profit?” takes a deep dive into all that and more.

It looks at how one of the LNTC’s most referenced resources is almost 20 years old and four pages long, yet their “Branding Guidelines” is a 23-page document. It investigates how 10 of its 13 Board of Directors have ties to outdoor recreation-based corporations including @REI, @keen, @Cricket, and more. It reveals that LNTC has actually put a copyright on the Leave No Trace Principles and charges underfunded land management agencies $1,000 per year to use them, despite having a “Leave No Trace In Every Park” initiative. It looks at how Dana Watts, who made $156,104 in 2018 as the executive director of the LNTC, is partially compensated not on the LNTC’s positive impacts to public lands, but the net earnings of the organization. It also exposes how the LNTC has even started sending supportive messages to influencers who are caught, and subsequently called out for, illegal behavior on YOUR public lands.

I’m not one to complain about a problem without offering up solutions, so at the conclusion of the article I offer up a number of solutions that I believe can help get LNTC back on the course that was originally set for it by NOLS and your federal land management agencies.

I have no doubt that the Leave No Trace Center was started with the best of intentions, and that to this day there are people at the LNTC that do great work educating people about how to be good stewards of our public lands. But from what I can see, a major course correction is necessary if LNTC wants to maintain the respect of people who treasure and respect our public lands.

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1 Comment

Andy Fox
Andy Fox
Jul 13, 2020

We have a similar issue here on Maui in the Haleakala NP; a local youth hostel offers weekend backcountry daytrips through the summit district for up to approx 30 visitors. This is a violation of size limits for commercial tours and organized groups (12 is the max for a group). They get around it by not charging a fee (that would make them commercial), but suggesting tips at the end of the tour. Most of the visitors are unprepared for anything but the mildest conditions, smoke and litter along the trail (when they are not shortcutting it). Since the alpine ecosystem is so fragile, no off trail travel is permitted, unlike typical NP backcountry on the mainland. As a service…

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