This posting lays out a few thoughts on the LNT Principle:
If we do this one at the start of a LNT presentation it can be a REAL sonofagun. At the end, once we all know what we are preparing for, it gets a BUNCH easier!
By now, we all know what we want to do to help protect our backcountry:
-learn how our actions can harm the backcountry;
-become committed to doing as little harm as possible;
-go do it (or don't do it, as the case may be); and,
-don't be a wuss about getting fellow backcountry users to join in!
Obviously, the better prepared we are before we go, the better we can do all the above!
One way to plan and prepare (p&p) is to do just what we have been doing for the last thirteen LNT messages...looking at the LNT "big picture." "LNT 15- Wrap up!" includes a short bibliography which can help get us all into LNT a LOT deeper than this simple set of introductory messages.
The next p&p step is for each of us to take a hard look at our intended use of the backcountry. There are a LOT of variables that come to play when we start considering all the various ways that we "users" like to interact with the many different backcountry ecosystems during the different seasons.
As climbers, bikers, hikers, x-country skiers, cavers, hoss folks...(and on and on), we all have widely differing ways that we like to use the backcountry. We each need to become familiar with the good LNT-type thinking that has already been done by the heavy-hitters in our particular sport(s). It is a rare backcountry sport nowadays that hasn't added LNT to it's bag of tricks...and the few that haven't are likely to be simply calling it something else (low impact, minimum impact, Ghost Riders, ethical use, soft use, Tread Lightly!, etc.).
Once we get pretty sharp on the kinds of LNT questions that we should be asking, we can start to research the specific backcountry ecosystem(s) that we plan to visit. There are a LOT of documents published about most of the popular backcountry areas...and the managing agencies WILL fall all over themselves to help us understand the special LNT considerations that might be peculiar to the areas they care for.
Once we (really!) know the range of conditions that we can expect during our backcountry visit...and we have decided on our personal/group LNT approach toward meeting those conditions...we can start to plan the details of our trip. Do we take stoves, use tarps, follow trails, visit pristine areas, go in big groups, stay in one camp for days, make campfires, (yaddata, yaddata)....are all these choices "optimum" LNT practice?
I dunno - there is NO WAY that I could know...it's the responsibility (and the privilege!) of each person heading out into the backcountry to
-the skills/attitudes of the particular individuals involved;
-the particular equipment and camping "style" that will be used;
-the particular ecosystems involved;
-the particular climate possibilities involved;
-the particular use-rates of the areas involved; and,
-the particular "official" rules/restrictions/constraints involved.
Tough task for somebody not involved...easy task for those that are.
We ARE getting more help to integrate this type of "heads-up" planning into our Scouting adventures (see the new "Passport To High Adventure", BSA pub: 4310). This type of sophisticated and ethical/idealistic analysis is EXACTLY up the alley of our older Scouts...and it dovetails nicely with the rest of a full Scouting program!
Our sharp youth-leaders doing the p&p job DO have a lot to think about!
We in Scouting are in the biz of growing kids (check out the Aims!) and we have discovered a pretty doggone well-defined way to do it that REALLY works (check out the Methods!). Our stock in trade is to recruit absolutely neophyte campers (youth and adults) and to provide a program that teaches them how to be safe, to be good outdoor citizens, and to have huge fun in the backcountry. The simple little fact that this outdoor-use allows ALL the Methods to come to life in a wonderful and highly effective OJT educational/growth program can be our little "secret"!
Scout units don't go to the woods just to have fun...we visit the backcountry to do good Scouting! By definition, our program is based on teams (Patrols) and on skilled older youth passing important (and highly relevant/practical!) skills down to the new guys.
We can reasonably expect a certain amount of "extra" impact to the backcountry ecosystem when new campers are learning very basic camping skills. We can expect even more impact when we choose to do this sort of training in teams (groups). We can expect even MORE impact when we choose (for important program reasons) to allow youth leaders to learn/practice their own leadership skills as they pass on the basics of camping. All of this adds up to some pretty heavy-duty impacts caused in the name of doing good Scouting!
Do we want to try to design an outdoor program that completely stops all impacts? We could easily set up LOTS of detailed "rules", do adult dictatorships instead of youth leadership, force the groups to be smaller than our designated teams, impose severe penalties if impacts are caused...and on and on.
Or...we can just get a tad smarter about where we choose to do our outdoor Scouting program!
Believe me, our sharp youth leaders are PLENTY capable of finding and planning trips to those "bombproof" backcountry locations where we can do the hi-impact parts of our outdoor program (Scout camps, private property, backcountry locations set aside for such use by the managing agencies, etc.). We CAN...easily...run an outdoor program that still allows new campers (and new young leaders!) to learn by doing...and sometimes failing...in backcountry areas that CAN absorb this kind of hi-impact use.
Hey...we then get to "graduate" these trained/practiced/skilled young Scouts into having huge fun visiting (and still doing good Scouting!) in all those beautiful hi-use/fragile public wildlands out there! The Scouts "win" because they become welcome visitors to some incredibly beautiful (world-class!) backcountry locations, the backcountry locations "win" because a significant chunk of users are truly able to visit with little/minimum impact, and Scouting as a whole "wins" because we are EARNING back our reputation as expert outdoorsmen!
This p&p stuff really IS pretty doggone simple:
get smart about LNT, get smart about our sport, get smart about where we plan to visit...and then play smart.
Piece of cake!
The last little bit to add to our p&p "smarts" is our need to be smart about getting help as we try to stem the tide of destruction to OUR beautiful backcountry that we are heading out to enjoy. We can't do it alone...and we all think that the effort IS worth doing...or we wouldn't be heading out!
Meet you at "LNT 15- Wrap up!"
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