Being Better Stewards for Land and Wildlife

Mar 11, 2019
Recreation is a huge part of many of our lives. But what is our impact on wildlife, trees, plants, and the soil? How can we become better stewards of the lands we enjoy so much?

by Jana Hemphill

 

As our March Nature Night on “Living in the Human Age” approaches, we are thinking about what that means for us in Central Oregon. Recreation is a huge part of many of our lives. But what is our recreational impact on wildlife, trees, plants, and the soil? How can we become better stewards of the lands we enjoy so much? Here are 5 quick and easy steps to lessening your impact when you go outside:

 

1. Pack it in, pack it out. This concept has been around for over 20 years, and it’s super simple to follow! Think of the trails and forests as an extension of your backyard. Would you throw an orange peel or banana peel in your front yard and leave it there to decompose? Food that is left behind takes longer to decompose than most people imagine. You might think of it simply as an orange peel, but once it’s tossed on the ground, it becomes trash. This is also the case when there’s snow on the ground--just because it’s covered by snow now doesn’t mean it won’t be trash on the ground later.

 

Brush up on local rules. Photo: Land Trust.
Brush up on local rules. Photo: Land Trust.
2. Understand local rules and regulations. To maximize your experience in the outdoors, make sure to plan your trip ahead of time so you understand regulations (like where you can camp and if you need a permit to day hike). If you haven’t had a chance to look into these details, go to someone who knows the regulations--the National Forest has offices in Sisters (open Monday-Friday, 8am-4:30pm) and along the Cascade Lakes Highway (click here for hours). You can also find detailed information about Land Trust preserves on our website.

 

3. Leave things the way you found them. Don’t take souvenirs from the outdoors with you, including rocks, flowers, or plants. Take photos instead! Don’t add things either, such as cairns, structures, and trenches. We want to keep nature as natural as possible, so others can explore and discover the same things that make us marvel at the wonder of it all.

 

Give wildlife the space they need. Photo: Land Trust.
Give wildlife the space they need. Photo: Land Trust.
4. Respect wildlife and their needs. We’ve all been there--an amazing animal sighting, and we want to make sure to get photographic evidence that it happened. Please keep your distance, so you don’t change the animal’s behavior. Selfies are fun, but you can have a beautiful photo during another part of your hike and mention your animal sighting in the caption. And trust me, the times I’ve thought myself too slow to get out my camera and decided to simply watch a black bear run across a hillside--the memory sticks with me a lot better than when I needed to snap 100 photos of the same scene. Respecting the wildlife also means not feeding them (on purpose or on accident). Human food does not have the same nutritional value for ground squirrels or other animals, causing health problems and disease. It might seem cute to feed small animals and get a photo, but remember--a toddler is cute eating a cookie, but a toddler eating cookies from 10 different people is not as cute (a sugar high followed by tears!).

 

Prevent trail erosion and plant trampling by hiking single file. Photo: Randy Tomer.
Prevent trail erosion and plant trampling by hiking single file. Photo: Randy Tomer.
5. Enjoy the trails and campsites that were put in the forest for you! Please make sure to hike on established trails and camp at existing campsites. If you’re passing someone on a trail, step aside and wait instead of walking next to the trail--that view will still be there for you if you wait 30 seconds! You’ll also be helping prevent damage to the trail and to the flowers, grasses, and soils next to the trail. Make sure to keep in mind when stepping aside that uphill traffic has the right-of-way. While hiking in a group, walking in a single file line has the least amount of impact.

 

If you follow these simple steps to being a better steward of the land (and encourage others to do the same!), our impacts during the Human Age can be lessened. You can learn about additional ways to contribute towards a positive future for ourselves and our planet during our March 20th Nature Night on “Living in the Human Age.” Register today.



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