Monday, December 27, 2010

A short history of Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace was incorporated as a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization in 1994, though the Leave No Trace concept is over 40 years old. Leave No Trace was formally conceived of by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service in the 1960’s. However, as public land use expanded and land managers witnessed the biophysical effects of this use, the Forest Service along with the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management developed early wilderness ethics practices.

By the mid-1980’s, the Forest Service had a formal “No-Trace” program emphasizing the cultivation of new wilderness ethics and sustainable no-trace travel and camping practices. The success of this program lead to cooperation among the Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management’s authorship of a pamphlet entitled “Leave No Trace Land Ethics.” In the early 1990s, the Forest Service worked with the National Outdoor Leadership School to develop hands-on, science-based minimum impact education training for non-motorized recreational activities.

An outdoor recreation summit was convened in 1993 including the various outdoor industry and sporting trade associations, NOLS, nonprofit organizations, outdoor manufacturer and federal land management agencies to create an independent 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization called Leave No Trace, Inc. The organization, now known as the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (the Center), was incorporated to develop and expand Leave No Trace training and educational resources, spread the general program components, and engage a diverse range of partners from the federal land management agencies and outdoor industry corporations to nonprofit environmental and outdoor organizations and youth-serving groups.

In 2000, the Center entered into the first of a series of Memorandums of Understandings with four primary federal land management agencies including the United States Department of Agriculture — Forest Service and the United States Department of the Interior — Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service. In 2007, the National Association of State Parks Directors, the governing organization for state parks in the United States, and Leave No Trace created a formal affiliate partnership to expand the possible use of the Leave No Trace program on state park lands.

In just over a decade, the Center has developed a comprehensive, three-tiered training system, encompassing field courses such as the five-day Master Educator course and workshops that range from an hour to two days. The Center also expanded Leave No Trace teaching tools adding educational activity guides, reference cards for various types of outdoor use, and expanding on the Leave No Trace Skills & Ethics booklet series for distinct activities and ecosystems.

Major program development in the last decade has focused on providing quality Leave No Trace education while broadening the program’s reach including: 1) A Traveling Trainer Program that has grown to three teams of mobile educators that travel throughout the continental United States teaching Leave No Trace and providing grassroots support to build Leave No Trace education and outreach programs at the local level. In 2007, a mobile summer educational program called the “e-tour” was added to the Center’s traveling educational offerings; 2) A youth program called PEAK — Promoting Environmental Awareness in Kids — that reaches over 100,000 diverse youth annually with direct programming; 3) Custom frontcountry programs for regional, state and city parks; 4) Complex community initiatives including a State Advocate program that encourages localized support and training as well as regional volunteerism; 5) International programs, training options and branch organizations in Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand; 6) and an extensive scholarship program for various training as well as materials grants for educators.

Today, the program reaches millions of Americans and dozens of countries each year with minimum impact training, educational tools and information. Corporate partners, individual members, foundation support and the sale of Leave No Trace educational materials provide the primary support for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. A national, voluntary Board of Directors made up of leaders from the outdoor industry, national youth-serving organizations, nonprofit organizations and the scientific community provide strategic leadership and set policy. Staff headquartered in Boulder, Colorado carry out the organization’s programs and mission-related work.

For more reading, and a link to the extended history, see our website.

No comments: