Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Tramping Theory: Following Leave No Trace principles in the outdoors

"...take only photos, leave only foot prints..."

I have a keen interest in nature and the environment so I thought it would be a good idea to discuss how I incorporate environmental concerns into my tramping. To that end I practice the principles of Leave No Trace while out in the back-country.

© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:

Lets have a look at Leave No Trace and discus how it impacts my style of outdoor adventures

What is Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace is an ethical framework which provides us with a way of interacting with nature. The movement started in the United States in the 1990's but has since spread to various  areas of the globe. The framework is based on the realisation that the environment is fragile and under increasing pressure from mankind, we as outdoors people must all play our part in preserving it.

Irish version of the Leave No Trace principles
Leave No Trace means engaging with nature in its natural state, not altering it to suit your own purpose.Obviously there are few if any places around the world mankind has not impacted in some fashion. Following the Leave No Trace guidelines mean we can minimise our individual and collective impact on the extant environment.

The seven principles of Leave No Trace theory:

Leave No Trace has seven guiding principles, these are meant to shape the actions of practitioners while in the back-country. They promote a sustainable way to co exist within nature. 

These seven principles are:

Principle 1: Plan ahead and prepare

Principle 2: Travel and camp on durable surfaces

Principle 3: Dispose of waste properly

Principle 4: Leave what you find

Principle 5: Minimise camp-fire impacts

Principle 6: Respect wildlife & farm animals

Principle 7: Be considerate to other visitors

My approach to Leave No Trace

While I am no expert on Leave No Trace I have made a conscious effort to incorporate the seven principles into all of my outdoor activities. I also talk to people about the principles to disseminate the information as widely as possible. This is an approach we can all easily incorporate, together we can work to change everyone's attitudes.

Jon in his natural environment...

 Here are a few photos demonstrating aspects of the seven principles of Leave No Trace and how they impact on the environment.

First up...if you are camping try to camp on a durable surface like rock, sand or mineral dirt. If there is a pre-existing camp-site on these type of surfaces use it. Rather than damaging virgin bush use one of the over 200 DOC camp-sites scattered around the country.

One of the nearly 200 DOC camp-sites in New Zealand: Torrent Bay Camp-site, Abel Tasman NP

My Luxe tent set up in the established camp site at Cowshed Bay, Marlborough

Plan and prepare your itinerary and gear before undertaking any outdoor adventure. In the Army we had a saying Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance- if you plan thoroughly your performance in the outdoors will be much better. The Mountain Safety Council has a wealth of resources on planning a trip into the outdoors.

Plan thoroughly to prevent accidents...
Always, always pack out what you have packed in, do not leave litter in the natural environment. Don't burn plastics in a camp fire or wood burner. If you have space take any rubbish you find with you. Trying to minimise the packaging you use is also a good general method of environmental care.

Lucky Jon carrying the rubbish bag...

If you must start a fire make sure it is on a durable surface like rock, sand or bare mineral earth. If a pre-existing fire ring or fireplace is available please use it, try to avoid a multitude of ugly fire circles.

Firing up the billy on sand minimises its long term visual impact...
...or use an existing fire pit!

 Better still, forget about that fire and use a small embers, no smoke and no trace left behind!

Brew time on the bed of the Blue Grey River, Victoria FP in 2016

If you find some kind of historic structure or artefact please respect its scientific, cultural and historic values and leave it in place! Often its importance is tied to the location...removing it or vandalising it devalues its worth. This is especially important for Maori artefacts...they represent the history of their people and should never be touched.

Historic boat wrecks, Quail Island, Banks Peninsula

When I'm out tramping I stay on the tracks whenever possible, obviously this is not always possible but if there is a choice between track or virgin bush always use the track. Do not go around muddy spots on a track, doing so will encourage others and widen the track.

Following the St James Walkway in 2015, nice dry track, use the stiles and bridges provided
A muddy track...go through it not around it!

You should avoid building shelters in the outdoors unless it is an emergency. Moving the materials for these shelters can damage the local ecology by removing a natural home/food source and are visually offensive. If you must build a shelter make sure you return the materials to their original location afterwards.

Don't build shelters of natural materials unless absolutely necessary!

In New Zealand we do not have a lot of the larger mammals you find in other back-country regions of the world. Therefore our interactions with them are limited.

St James wild of the few large wild animals we have in New Zealand!

What we do have are birds...when you are out on your adventures ensure you interact with our native birds in a careful and responsible manner. Do not feed them, do not interfere with them and respect their boundaries.

Kea or New Zealand Mountain Parrot at Arthur's Pass...don't feed them!
A Weka or native Wood-hen, fearless scavengers of human detritus

When you are tramping do so in either a small group or solo. Large groups are far more likely to disturb any resident wildlife as well as causing greater cumulative damage to the flora they pass.

Tramping in a small group is less invasive to the environment

Educate yourself about the Leave No Trace principles and try to put them into use whenever you are in the outdoors.

Final thoughts on Leave No Trace

At heart I am an environmentalist, I believe that man is the most dangerous threat to the natural world. Nature is to be enjoyed but we must strive to minimise our impact upon it. For that reason I wholeheartedly approve the Leave No Trace framework.

Waimakiriri River Valley...the type of rugged beauty we are trying to preserve

When I am in the back-country I put these seven guiding principles into practical use at all times.  I would rather expend a bit more effort than deprive future generations of the right to experience the majesty of mother nature.

Me enjoying quiet commune with nature, Travers-Sabine Circuit 2018

If you would like more information about the Leave No Trace movement then check out the Leave No Trace website or look for a related programme in your local area. There are also many educational courses available which will allow you to educate others about the principles of Leave No Trace, check your local University, Polytechnic or Outdoor education provider.

The next time you go tramping I would urge you to follow the general principles of Leave No Trace, play your own small part in preserving our natural environment.

...take only photos, leave only footprints!

Useful Links: Leave No Trace

Here are some links that you may find useful:

Department of Conservation: Leave No Trace care codes

Leave No Trace.Org:  Leave No Trace Centre for Outdoor Ethics

Mountain Safety Council of New Zealand: Trip planning resources 

The New Zealand Leave No Trace site: Leave No Trace New Zealand

Wikipedia: Leave No Trace

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

My 'take' on rising tourism numbers

How many is too many, or the tale of uncontrolled growth...

As you may (or may not) be aware New Zealand is in the midst of a massive tourism boom. In 2008 2.5 million people visited this country.  In 2016 that number was over 3.5 million, by 2020 it is forecast to reach 5 million!

Visitor arrivals by country of origin, Source from web

The vast majority of these people come to New Zealand for the scenic beauty we are world known for. Unfortunately this is causing severe strain on both our environment and infrastructure.

Example One: The Tongariro Crossing

A good example of this potential damage is the Tongariro Crossing. It is in a unique and very delicate eco system- yet is jammed to the rafters with people. 

When I walked the crossing back in the 1990s the only people on the track were me and the 6 guys with me. We didn't see another party for the whole day. Now 1000 people typically walk the track on a fine summer day.  Last year the total number of visitors was over 120 000.

Tongariro Crossing: The image...

The overseas media image of this track (and New Zealand as a whole) is of an largely empty unspoiled wilderness, yet in reality you will be surrounded by a crowd for most of the time. Tongariro is an extreme example but many other places (The Coromandel Peninsula, Mt Cook, Fiordland, Abel Tasman NP, Mt Taranaki, small SI rural townships) face similar problems.

Tongariro Crossing: the Reality...!

Example two: Milford Sound

Milford Sound is considered by many to be the premier scenic destination in New Zealand. Unfortunately it is basically inaccessible to the majority of New Zealanders due to crowding.  There are crowds; on the roads, on the tracks and at the Sound itself.

When the bookings for the 2017-2018 Milford Track season opened recently 99% of possible places from November-April were gone within 4 hours! 

Crowds mean waste, which means money- DOC spent over $250 000 emptying the toilets on the Milford Track in 2016. That is the cost of a new 12 bunk hut, or maintaining 10-20 existing huts..spent on moving excrement!

Buses at Milford Sound, from twogotikitouring

I talked to a German tourist last year who had visited Milford Sound while in Fiordland. He said that he counted 36 buses as well as over 50 camper vans on the day he was there. He said all you could hear were planes, helicopters, vehicles and people. 
How is that scenic?

 What I think about this...

Firstly, I'm not against tourism- I love inter-acting with overseas visitors when I tramp. I also realise how important tourism is to our economy but something has to change. Clearly these numbers are unsustainable in our environment and damage our international reputation.

 Hey I have already had overseas trampers tell me they hate the crowds- and they are telling their friends, family etc not to come here.

My main problem is the current lack of a strategic plan to tackle this: all I hear are schemes to garner more $$$ from tourists not deal with the underlying issue of numbers. Raising the price of Great Walks (for example) will not deter international visitors. It will just make it even more difficult for Kiwis to visit their own iconic locations because it is unaffordable.

The solution: a range of  things including spreading the load, border taxes, preferential charges, more/higher charges for services and unfortunately limiting numbers in the worst affected places. 

Here is one solution: fund DOC at a realistic level so they can actually do the stuff they are supposed to be doing. The creep towards commercialism in DOC is dangerous. They are the gate keepers of our outdoors, if their sole reason for being is to raise money why do we need them? Perhaps this is actually the governments DOC,  just Tourism Inc. in charge.

Fancy a visit to New Zealand World anyone...?

You can help!

 We have an election this year- use your vote to send a clear message that you do not agree with what is happening. Take one for Team New Zealand folks- forget about what goodies YOU are being offered and vote for the party that sounds like they actually want to do something about this idiocy.

Come on people stop complaining and act before it is too late.