Melissa's Message: Leave No Trace

The ACFL is an important part of our community and many people enjoy spending time in our forest lands. Our favorite trails are an essential component of the outdoor experience, whether mountain biking, hiking, or taking a horseback ride through the woods. As summer approaches, these trails and the forest will feel the increased impacts as more people in our community get outside to enjoy nature and other outdoor activities. A lot of people consequently means a lot of impacts and these impacts can accrue quickly, especially on fragile ground.

According to Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, 9 out of 10 people in the outdoors are uninformed about their impacts. With that in mind and summer approaching, I would like to share some of the ways we can lessen our impacts, based on Leave No Trace principles, to help the forest flourish into the future.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare to stay safe, reduce stress and make the most of your visit.

    -Know the rules, regulations, and special concerns of the ACFL

    -Check the trail maps for elevation, and bring it along with you if you are venturing into a new area.

  2. Stick to trails to protect fragile areas such as rocky outcrops with lichens, moss and plants, and respect private property.

    -Walk and ride in the middle of designated trails.

    -Do not create new trails or trample undeveloped areas. User-created “social trails” can lack important features of properly designed ones, leading to greater erosion and heightened impacts on plants and animals.

  3. Trash your trash and pack out animal waste.

    -Pet waste has a major impact on our local watershed by introducing pathogens and nutrients. Bagging it up and bringing it out with you is the best way to ensure that our waters stay clean.

    -Pack it in, pack it out. Put litter- even crumbs, peels and cores- in bags and dispose of in garbage cans.

  4. Leave it as you find it.

    -The best way to show your appreciation for ur forest inhabitants is to leave them as you found them. Everything in the forest has a purpose.

    -Treat living plants with respect. Carving, hacking or peeling trees or plants may kill them.

  5. Keep wildlife wild.

    -Observe wildlife from a distance and never approach, feed, or follow them. Stressing wildlife in these ways damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.

    -Know and follow leash rules for your pet to minimize wildlife interactions and off trail disturbances.

  6. Be considerate of others to increase the enjoyment of the outdoors for all visitors.

    -Keep your pet under control to protect it, other visitors, and wildlife.

    -Yield to other users on the trail.

    -Leave generous space between you and other visitors.

    -Avoid making loud noises, yelling or listening to music through speakers. Many people visit the forest for solitude and peace; plus you have a better chance of seeing and hearing wildlife!

It is important that we do our best to protect the ACFL as users of this wonderful natural resource. It is also the season to be particularly mindful of the lack of rain and the flammability of dry plant matter in the ACFL. According to the National Park Service, nearly 90 percent of wild land fires in the United States are caused by humans. The agency attributes negligently discarded cigarettes as one of the primary causes of these wildfires; one mindlessly dropped cigarette could mean serious unintended consequences.

Educating ourselves and others about ways we might impact he ACFL and how to lessen impacts by practicing Leave No Trace principles, we can do our part to preserve the forest ecosystem and continue to enjoy it into the future. For more information about Leave No Trace visit: