Are you familiar with the term, “Leave No Trace”? It is an often-heard phrase within National Parks or exploring the backcountry wilderness.
As a resident and teacher in a small town in northwest Montana, I write this post with a heavy heart. Glacier National Park is literally, my backyard. This summer we have seen overcrowding, an increase in trash, dead animals, and severe damage to our park and waterways caused by humans.
I wanted to use this post as a way to share what the Leave No Trace philosophy entails and how you can practice this important philosophy.
For teachers, homeschooling parents, or distance learning there are links to incredible educational resources throughout the post.
Glacier National Park (GNP) describes Leave No Trace as, “a way of thinking, an attitude, and an ethic, that helps us reduce our footprint on the places we love.”
If you plan a visit to our park, I ask that you familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace guidelines.
- Plan Ahead and Prepare – Visit in small groups, take the free shuttle when possible, expect crowds, there is no cell service in the park.
- Stay on Durable Surfaces – Hike single file in the middle of a trail to avoid widening it. Trails have been widened by more than 10 feet by spread out hikers.
- Dispose of Waste Properly – Pack it in, Pack it out. Even fruit peelings, apple cores. Apple cores, banana and orange peels do not decompose easily in our environment and can lure wildlife close to trails.
- Leave What you Find – Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them. Do not build cairns or stack rocks.
- Respect Wildlife – Stay at least 25 yards (75 feet) from ALL animals and 100 yards (300 feet) from bears and wolves. For the safety of yourself and the animals. The park is NOT a petting zoo. You are a visitor in the animals’ home, please be respectful. NEVER feed animals.
The saying, “A fed bear is a dead bear” applies to all animals.
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors – Let nature’s sounds prevail, avoid loud voices, and music.
- Reduce the Impact of Social Media – Geo-tagging, leaving the trail to snap a photo in a field of flowers is a NO-NO. Your feet are destroying microhabitats and your posts will encourage others to imitate that behavior.
Visit this page which explains in detail how you can avoid negatively impacting National Parks. If you have a visit planned, please review it before your departure.
As a second-grade teacher in Northwest Montana, one of our annual field trips is to Glacier National Park. My students learn about habitats and about the Leave No Trace philosophy.
The main message from the park rangers is that our actions, no matter how small can greatly impact natural habitats. If you are a teacher, homeschool parent, or plan to visit our park, you can find amazing resources for Distance Learning here.
The park produced this short video to introduce the Student Resource Guide. You can find the additional videos mentioned here. GNP has done an amazing job on this site with many resources for students, teachers, and parents.
One of the most impactful lessons during our visit each year is about microhabitats. Students are divided into groups and given a penny. In a designated area they are allowed to turn over rocks and look for small bugs and insects. Students then create a microhabitat on the penny. Yes, a penny. The next time you think of stepping off of that trail to get that perfect picture, think how many pennies would fit on the bottom of your shoe.
Impactful visual, right?
Preserve and Protect our Parks xo