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Keys to Responsible Recreation in the BackCountry
 by: Chuck Fitzgerald

Having a good time is pretty high on everyone's to do list, especially when surrounded by awesome views and super-awesome friends. We hike, bike, climb, camp, raft, fish, hunt, four-wheel, sleep and eat - among other things - in the backcountry. If not done properly, that's a lot of wear and tear on our natural resources. Responsible recreation ensures future outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors as you have. Without a recreation code of ethics, our backcountry would become a thing of the past. Here are some universally agreed upon keys for having a good time - the right way.

-Take only pictures, leave only footprints. If you carry it in, carry it out. This will eliminate litter.

-Protect water sources from contamination. Use bio-degradable soap, or try hot water soap-less dishwashing, bathing and clothes washing. When using soap (even bio-degradable) and toothpaste, dispose of the wastewater at least 100 feet away from natural water sources, well or faucet water sources.

-Be a good neighbor - control your noise and your pets. Always keep your dog on a leash no longer than 6 feet, and away from public swimming areas. Barking and not cleaning up after pets leads to many complaints from other outdoor enthusiasts. Do not leave pets unattended.

-Be respectful of the natural environment - keep the trees and shrubs alive and growing. Nails and wires should not be used on trees because they can cause serious damage to trees. Burn damage will permanently scar or kill a tree.

-When hiking or biking, stay on designated trails. This keeps damage to vegetation and erosion in one place.

-Before leaving your campsite, clean your fire pit and your campsite. Make it as clean as you would want it if you were arriving that day. The next user will appreciate it.

Leave-No-Trace, www.lnt.org, offers the following Principles for Outdoor Ethics: Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife and Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

Here is the Tread Lightly!, www.treadlightly.org, pledge: Travel and recreate with minimum impact, Respect the environment and the rights of others, Educate yourself - plan and prepare before you go, Allow for future use of the outdoors - leave it better than you found it and Discover the rewards of responsible recreation.

Responsible recreation means having the common sense and the courtesy to enjoy the backcountry without spoiling someone else's experience. Most outdoor enthusiasts understand this very well and spend a good deal of their time restoring, enhancing and conserving our backcountry. Have a good time when you're outdoors, share these keys with your friends and use this information to Get It Right The First Time.

Get Outdoors!

Chuck Fitzgerald 2004. All Rights Reserved.