As temperatures rise this summer, so will public land visitation. This means larger crowds and bigger impacts on the trail. Now more than ever, it's important to proactively work to leave public land better than you found it. There are many ways to minimize your impact.
Leave It Better: Help keep trails trash-free
We have all encountered litter on the trail or at a campsite from the previous users or on a lakeshore. Not only does trash ruin a beautiful scene, it also has negative impacts on the flora and fauna that live in these places. By committing to leaving it better and doing your part, you can protect these places you love. An easy way to start is to always keep trash bags and gloves at your campsite, in your pack or in your vehicle and simply clean up as you go.
Be wildfire aware
In many regions of the country, wildfire season comes earlier and earlier each year. It is estimated that around 90% of wildfires are human caused. Additionally, the State of Utah has declared a state of emergency due to drought, heightening the chance for wildfires this year. In recognition of May Wildfire Awareness Month, you can learn ways to minimize fire risk when getting outside.
When camping, it's important that you make sure your campfire is completely out every time you leave the site. By using the drown, stir, feel method you can assure that the fire is not a threat to the area when you leave. Simply drown the fire out with water, stir the dirt and water then use the back of your hand to feel if the area is still hot. If so, repeat these steps until cool.
Another way to prevent active wildfires from spreading is by leaving drones grounded. Drones can hinder aerial firefighting efforts causing fire to spread and putting pilots and ground crews at risk. Remember, if you fly, they can't.
One more way to prevent wildfires is by making sure there are no dragging chains on your vehicle. If chains hit the pavement, this can cause a spark and any dry brush nearby can catch fire. Make sure everything is tied down before hitting the road.
Don't spread invasive species
Whether on land or water, invasive species can have a big impact. When off-roading or mountain biking, try to handwash your vehicle before taking it to a new area. This helps prevent the spread of invasive plant species to new areas. Mussels and other aquatic invasive species can hitch a ride in the livewell of a boat, so always make sure it's drained before taking your boat into a new body of water.
Stewardship projects don't have to be big to-dos. Sometimes it's as simple as finding a problem and taking time to fix it. If you know of an area that has been trashed, gather a small group of friends or volunteers to meet up and help clean up the area. If the problem is bigger and you need more hands on deck, reach out to the local land management agency to see how you can help address the issue.
Finally, you can help minimize your impact on public land by being prepared for anything. Pack extra trash and pet waste bags, bring supplies to clean your vehicle and plenty of water to drown out a campfire. Find more tips on how to visit respectfully by checking out the Forever Mighty travel ethics tips and Tread Lightly!'s responsible recreation tips.