Leave What You Find
Allow others a sense of discovery by leaving rocks, plants, archaeological
artifacts, and any other objects as you found them. Leave what you find
involves many aspects of outdoor use. The following information addresses a
variety of ways to respect natural settings.
Minimize Site Alterations
Leave areas as you found them. Do not dig trenches for tents or construct
lean-tos, tables, chairs, or other rudimentary improvements. If you clear an
area of surface rocks, twigs, or pine cones, replace these materials before
leaving. On high-impact sites, it is appropriate to clean up the site and
dismantle inappropriate user-built facilities, such as multiple fire rings and
constructed seats or tables. Consider the idea that good campsites are found
and not made.
In many locations, properly located and legally constructed facilities, such
as a single fire ring, should be left. Dismantling them will cause additional
impact because they will be rebuilt with new rocks and thus distress a new area.
Learn to evaluate all situations you encounter.
Avoid Damaging Live Trees and Plants
Never hammer nails into trees for hanging things, hack at them with hatchets
or saws, or cut or trample tree saplings or seedlings. Carving initials into
trees is unacceptable. The cutting of boughs for use as a sleeping pad creates
minimal benefit and maximum impact. Inexpensive, lightweight sleeping pads are
readily available at camp supply stores.
Picking a few flowers does not seem like it would have any great impact and,
if only a few flowers were picked, it wouldn't. However, if every visitor
thought, "I'll just take a couple," a much more significant impact
might result. Take a picture or sketch the flower instead of picking it.
Knowledgeable campers may enjoy an occasional edible plant but are careful not
to deplete the surrounding vegetation or disturb plants—especially those that
are rare or are slow to reproduce.
Leave Natural Objects and Cultural Artifacts
Natural objects of beauty or interest—such as antlers, petrified wood, or
colored rocks—add to the mood of the backcountry and should be left so others
can experience a sense of discovery. In national parks and some other protected
areas it is illegal to remove natural objects.
The same ethic applies to
cultural artifacts found on public lands. Cultural artifacts are protected by
the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. It is illegal to remove or disturb
archaeological sites, historic sites, or artifacts—such as pot shards,
arrowheads, structures, and even antique bottles—found on public lands. If you
discover a significant archaeological resource that may not be known to others,
pinpoint its location on a topographic map and report your finding to a land