I had a different childhood than most. I chose backpacking and other outdoors opportunities over things like sports. I grew up in an outdoors atmosphere surrounded by people who had years and years of experience. Taking different approaches to have a minimal an impact on the wilderness as possible was second hat for me. It just seemed like the thing to do if I wanted to be able to enjoy the outdoors for years to come and help others to experience it, too. Why ruin a good thing and make it so that others may not have the same opportunities to enjoy nature the way I do?
Unfortunately this way of thinking isn't second hat for everyone. Many are ignorant about how their actions are affecting the world around them. They don't understand how trash, pollution, and removing parts of a food chain have huge effects. They can't see "the big picture".
As a stock user and an avid outdoors person, the Leave No Trace Trainer and Master Educator courses with an emphasis on stock in the backcountry seemed like a logical choice for me. I really didn't understand when I was signing up quite what I was getting into. But I really enjoyed what I learned and that I now have the ability to pass this training on to others who are interested (we will be having the same courses I took + packing + a pack trip in WV next summer for anyone interested!).
- I have learned the importance of camping and traveling on durable surfaces to prevent new trails and trail widening (thus stopping vegetation from growing and further fragmenting the habitat of our wildlife);
- I've learned how to have a campfire that has very little impact on the environment (the only impact being the wood that is burned - no sterilization of the ground);
- I've learned how to properly tie my horses to prevent damage to tree limbs, bark, and roots;
- I've learned methods of explaining to non-stock(horse) users on trails how to cope around horses that pass them and why it is important (most don't understand the flight mechanism of horses);
- I've learned how to help prevent/minimize the spread of invasive/non-native plant species by cleaning truck and trailer/brushing out manes and tails before and after visiting a new area;
- and, here's the kicker, to help the aesthetics of our trailheads and campsites, I've learned to not clean out my trailer when I get to the campground, but to put manure back in the trailer and take it home to dispose of it in a better place.
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Stock users and trail riders get a VERY bad rep most everywhere we ride that is a public multi-use trail. If we want to KEEP riding and camping in these places we need to be careful to be more respectful of other users and of the land we're using.
This doesn't mean you have to pick up every turd your horse drops on the trail. It doesn't mean you have to pick up everyone's trash all the time. It doesn't mean you have to preach your way of mind to everyone you pass.
It means you need to be AWARE. You need to be aware of your actions and how they may be viewed by others. You need to lead by example.
You don't have to be a purist in Leave No Trace principles for them to work. You just need to be aware. EDUCATION not LEGISLATION will preserve our wildlands. Working smarter, not harder. We need to educate trail users on how best to use trails.
Prevent avoidable impacts. Minimize unavoidable impacts.
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Many of your are like me, you love the outdoors and you love riding your horse. Many of you realize, like me, that you can get more from your outside experience by riding your horse. We see things other people don't see because we horseback ride. Our horses can watch their feet so we can see the beauty around us. It lets us appreciate nature even more. And, of course, we enjoy the bond we have with our animals throughout the whole experience.
I'm asking you to think about how you use the trails in your area. Now what can you do differently, maybe something mentioned above, maybe something mentioned on the Leave No Trace website that is a part of their other principles - what can you do differently to leave a little bit less of an impact or to augment the experience of someone else who may be using the same area (horse user or non-horse user)?
|© Liz Stout|