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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Chloe Everson
Chloe Everson
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Hi! My name is Chloe and I am a fourth-year senior here at NMU. I am a Public Relations major and have always enjoyed sports. I love being outdoors, shopping, and drinking coffee at all hours of the...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
Opinion — It's okay to outgrow your college friends
Megan PoeApril 12, 2024

Leave No Trace

The number of hikers and campers in the United States has steadily increased over the last century, but many are unaware of the lasting toll their outdoor expeditions have on the environment.

According to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, visits to U.S. Forest lands have increased from 4.6 million in 1924, to over 900 million in 1999. This increased traffic has led to erosion, trampling, campfire scars and other types of damage on many public lands.

In order to combat this damage, the Leave No Trace Center was founded in 1994. The organization has since come up with hundreds of different tips for hikers and campers who want to minimize their impact on the environment.

NMU’s Student Leadership Fellowship Program (SLFP) hosted a skill builder in the Great Lakes Room on Saturday, March 31 to help students learn the skills necessary to keep the environment in tact while utilizing the outdoors.

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“In our generation, it is more important than ever to be environmentally conscious at every level,” said Nick Place, a program coordinator for SLFP. “Respecting and preserving the environment is not a government issue, it has to start at the personal level.”

Leave No Trace camping is more an attitude and way of camping rather than any set of rules, said Ben Lawhan, the educational director of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

“Our mission is to have everyone who goes out into nature follow some of the principles of Leave No Trace, rather than have a very small group of people follow it to the book,” Lawhan said.

For those who would like to help protect the environment while camping this summer these four helpful and easy to follow tips will get you started.

Planning Ahead

“Every successful camping trip begins with one key element, and that is planning,” Lawhan said. “Planning ahead is the most important principal of Leave No Trace camping. If you plan ahead you can learn about what permits you need, what you need to pack (and) it will just lead to a better and more enjoyable trip overall.”

The Center for Outdoor Ethics suggests the first thing to do when planning any kind of outdoor trip is to identify the goals and skill level of the group, the equipment that will be needed for the trip and the destination.

“By planning every detail of your trip ahead of time, you can really prepare yourself for Leave No Trace camping,” Lawhan said.

Traveling and Camping on Durable Surfaces

Traveling on marked trails and staying in proper campsites can help preserve natural areas along trails, Lawhan said. By staying on marked trails, hikers can help prevent the destruction of the surrounding soil which could lead to erosion.

When camping in a high traffic area, it’s important to camp on a often used site, writes Annette McGivney in her book, “Leave No Trace: A Guide to the New Wilderness Etiquette.”

“However, if you are in a pristine area camp in an area that looks like it has never been used before,” McGivney wrote.

How you walk on a trail is an important part of Leave No Trace camping as well, McGivney said. You should always walk down the center of a trail and in a single file line, even if this means walking through mud or puddles.

Proper Disposal of Waste

One of the toughest principals of Leave No Trace camping for many is the proper disposal of human waste.

“[Pooping] in the woods is an acquired rather than an innate skill, a skill honed only by practice, a skill all but lost to the bulk of the population,” said Kathleen Meyer, author of the book, “How to Shit in the Woods.”

“When you go into the woods come prepared with a [poop]-plan,” McGivney wrote. “If there is no latrine there are three ways you can plan of disposing of your poop; you can dig a cathole, smear it, or a bizarre method known as the ‘shitput’ which involves pooping on a rock and throwing it into a dry ravine.”

Digging a cat hole is the easiest and probably most common method for waste removal. A cat hole is an 8-inch hole dug into the ground that the pooper squats over to do their business; when the person is finished they scoop the dirt back into the hole to cover the waste.

Use Fire Sparingly

The first thing that pops into some people’s heads when they think of camping is a roaring fire. However, the Center for Outdoor Ethics advises that fire should be used sparingly if at all.

“You should really use a camp stove to avoid using fire altogether,” Lawhan said. “Cooking meals on a camp stove can help reduce the work that it takes to camp as well as the impact on the land.”

Lawhan conceded though that this may not be a suitable option to many casual campers who want a campfire at the end of the day. He suggests that if campers feel they need a campfire, they should make one using wood no bigger in diameter than their thumb. He also said it is important for people to gather wood that is laying on the ground instead of ripping limbs off of trees.

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