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  • Writer's picturePublic Lands Hate You

Leave No Trace Principle #4 – Leave What You Find

***Posted to the @PublicLandsHateYou Instagram account on 8/15/2019***

Leave No Trace Principle #4 – Leave What You Find

Most of us learned in grade school that we shouldn’t take things that don’t belong to us and that if we do use something that doesn’t belong to us we should return it in the same (or better) condition than we received it. That lesson applies on our public lands as well, where plants, rocks, archaeological artifacts, and other items of interests should be left as they were found.

Trees and plants should be left as they are. That means no carving into tree trunks, picking wildflowers, or nailing things into living plants. If you use a hammock, pick mature trees with thick bark to hang from, and be sure to use tree protectors. A 1” piece of webbing is not sufficient.

Although tempting to take a rock, some sand, or a deer antler home with you from our public lands as a memory, please leave them for others to experience. If you see something interesting, take a picture and share it with your friends rather than hoarding it for yourself. In national parks and on many other public lands it is illegal to remove natural objects, including cultural artifacts like pot shards and arrowheads which are protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

If a site requires alterations for an activity such as camping, those alterations should be minimal and reversible. Moving some pine cones and branches to clear a site is fine as they can be replaced when you leave, but using a shovel to level a site and dig drainage ditches is frowned upon. Good campsites are found, not made, so if a site doesn’t suit your needs, continue exploring.

Taking one rock, some sand, or picking a few wildflowers may not seem like a big deal, and on an individual level it is not. But imagine if all 330,000,000 visitors to our National Parks last year removed a rock or wildflowers. That IS an impact. So do your part and leave our public lands as you found them.

And this should go without saying, but leaving what you find means leaving it in the same condition you found it. Carving initials into trees, spray painting rocks, throwing holi powder everywhere, and building frivolous cairns damage our public lands and detract from others experiences.

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