Boise CultureCultureOutdoor & Recreation

How you can “leave no trace” in outdoor spaces

Photo by Claire Keener

Boise is experiencing rapid population growth, and with this growth comes the increased use of its outdoor spaces. It is important that we remain aware of the impacts we can have on the environment.

Leave No Trace, an ethical guideline established by the Leave No Trace Center of Outdoor Ethics, provides seven principles for creating minimum impact when visiting and experiencing the outdoors. 

These principles have been created to be adaptive so that they can be applied to any environment, from wilderness preserves to recreation areas.

  • These seven principles include:
  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Be Considerate of Others

Dirk Anderson, environmental education and stewardship coordinator at Bogus Basin, shares what the Leave No Trace movement means to him.

“Personally to me, that movement shows an awareness by people who are interested in the outdoors,” Anderson said. “These aspects of the environment we are protecting are resilient and tough, but are also fragile under continuous use and influence by people recreating. It’s a recognition of that.”

Anderson emphasizes the importance of planning ahead and considering changes in regulations, climate and seasons before adventuring into the local environment.

For example, in seasons of higher rainfall, the water levels of a usually crossable stream could rise two or three times higher than its regular resting state. It is important to be aware of these possible changes and be prepared. Being prepared for these possible changes is important to prevent harm to both yourself and the environment.

Boise foothills
[Photo of the Boise Foothills]
Photo by Claire Keener | The Arbiter

In addition to the Leave No Trace principles, Mari Rice, a lecturer for the environmental studies program at Boise State, emphasizes the concept of “tragedy of the commons,” which locally for the average person could mean overuse of trails and recreation areas.

“Be aware of the habitat and climate of where you’re going, and understand what that ecosystem can handle and what it can’t,” Rice said.

In addition to the common actions of disposing of waste, being considerate of wildlife and following fire restrictions, Sara Arkle, Boise Foothills and open space superintendent for the City of Boise, shares that there are other small actions that must be taken that many might not be aware of, and unawareness of these actions have damaging impacts to the environment.

“Something people might not think about is their role in spreading invasive species,”Arkle said. “Making sure that you’re looking at your shoes before you leave to go on a hike or when you come back … anything that you have on your body that could transfer seeds of non-native species.”

Invasive species are currently one of the biggest threats to Idaho’s ecosystems. After a hike in the foothills, be sure to clean your shoes and shake out your bags before you leave the area, and if you’re planning on hitting the slopes at Bogus Basin this winter, remember to pull out the laces on your boots and thoroughly check your gear before heading back down the mountain. 

Educate yourself on these principles to limit your impact on our local environment and wildlife. Check trail reports and fire restrictions, dispose of waste and always thoroughly prepare for your adventure outdoors by doing your research.
To help further protect the local environment, sign the Ridge to Rivers Happy Trails Pledge and ensure that everyone has a positive experience when recreating in the Boise Foothills.

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