Litter, Newfoundland, and Leave No Trace

Today I am going out on a limb. A Leave No Trace limb. I want to talk about the environment, the way we engage with it and how we can enjoy it while caring for it. This post is inspired by the conversation that was started on Cross Talk, our local CBC noon radio show, simply titled “Litter” (click here to listen).

As most of you know, usually I like to write posts about trails, gear and other outdoor stuff – that’s my specialty and my passion. However, underlying all of that is the place we all love to play – outside, in the woods!

Having lived on the island of Newfoundland for the last eight years, I have learned that Newfoundlanders are fiercely passionate about their island. They love the land, the sea and all the freedom to use the land that they are used to. Which seems to provide an interesting mix of a sense of entitlement to do as they please (dump garbage in the woods, have open fires everywhere, run their quad through the bog etc.) and deeply loving natural areas (spending time at cabins, riding snowmobiles and quads, fishing etc.). I realize I am generalizing here, but bare with me.

I also vividly notice things like the lack of recycling, the amount of garbage left on National Park trails (used toilet paper is super gross!) and garbage in the woods on logging roads where I bike and pick berries.

As a guide, I hear first hand why our visitors come here:

“To explore the beauty of Newfoundland and enjoy the natural environment” ~ Sarah, Ontario

“Gros Morne’s beauty is legend (and it is also a geologist’s/naturalist’s dream)” ~ Helen, Ontario

“To experience the glorious and rugged nature of Newfoundland” ~ Dagmar, Germany

They want to see it at it’s best. And don’t we want them to see it that way too? So why do I find myself on Gros Morne Mountain apologizing to clients about the garbage (read: toilet paper outside of the outhouses?!). Explaining to clients that we don’t recycle plastics – at all! And worst of all, having to explain why they can’t take rocks from the Tablelands or treasures from the beaches!!

So why are we having this conversation about people dumping garbage in the woods, littering the trails and taking rocks?  Because people are upset! And I am one of them! On the show, suggestions were made for reducing garbage such as clean ups, enforcement, fines, and social shaming which apply more directly to garbage but for me this is where Leave No Trace could play a significant role.

“Leave No Trace is about respecting and caring for wildlands, doing your part to protect our limited resources and future recreation opportunities.” ~ www.leavenotrace.ca

Essentially, Leave No Trace is a set of guidelines aimed to help us build awareness, appreciation and respect for our natural environment. What I would like to see is locals (Newfoundlanders and CFA’s alike) adopting the seven L.N.T principles and be the champions for this land they love so much. Learning, teaching and sharing amongst ourselves and our children, plus educating our visitors could help us maintain our “glorious and rugged nature” that “is legend” around the world for years to come. I think that the natural environment is our provinces best asset!

How can you help? Here are 2 simple ways:

  1. LEARN the simple 7 Leave No Trace Principles and practice them!

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
    • Proper trip planning helps all backcountry travellers (hunters, snowmobilers, hikers etc.) accomplish their trip goals safely and enjoyably, while also minimizing damage to the land. Whether your going for a couple hours, a day or multiple days, make plan and go prepared.
    • Day Adventure Checklist Here!
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
    • The goal of backcountry travel is to move through the pristine wilderness while leaving it unharmed. Stay on developed trails where possible and spread out in the backcountry to avoid creating new trails.
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
    • This principle applies to human waste but can also be generally thought of for garbage. An easy way to remember this one is “Pack it in, Pack it out!” which includes “biodegradable” items such as banana and orange peels, apple cores and toilet paper!
  • Leave What You Find
    • Allow others to enjoy the same things you did by leaving rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them. Another way to remember this is “Take only pictures, leave only footprints”.
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
    • Consider using a stove instead of building a fire or build your fire on a durable surface. Nobody should know you had a fire there! Oh and take your beer bottles out too!
  • Respect Wildlife
    • Considerate people observe wildlife from afar, give animals a wide berth, store food securely, and keep garbage and food scraps away from animals. Remember that you are a visitor to their home – whether camping or at the cabin, you’re in bear country!
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors
    • Let’s all just have good time enjoying being outside. Please be respectful of other outdoor enthusiasts by practicing all of the above!

2. Consider donating or becoming a member.

3. Further Reading and Resources

If you have gotten this far, thanks for sticking with me! You’re interested enough to read all 956 words, so please take action on this: Share, Share, Share and then tell somebody over coffee!;)

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