Every month in the Center's eNews, we pose a difficult Leave No Trace ethical and skills based situations for readers to comment on. Below is December's situation and a few of your responses.
What would you do?
As you approach your favorite wildlife viewing spot along a pristine alpine lake, a group of four has decided to set up camp right along the lakeshore. You know that camping 200 feet from water will protect the water source from becoming polluted. In addition, you fear the group's camping choice will impact wildlife in their natural habitat. How would you encourage these campers to select an alternative camping spot?
This is what you said:
Response from Keith Abraham: I would approach them and ask about the beautiful view and location they have chosen and ask about the wildlife in the area. Whether or not they want to see some of the wildlife will determine where you go from there. If they want to see wildlife but haven't, you may share the fact that the animals usually come to the lake to drink but they may be scared because people are so close. You may want to suggest that moving several hundred feet back from the lake is a good idea to allow the wildlife to come down and drink, you may even offer to help them move.
Response from Mark Katich: I would tell them that the following story.
“How the Fly Saved the River: A Native American Lore”
Many, many years ago when the world was new, there was a beautiful river. Fish in great numbers lived in this river, and its water was so pure and sweet that all the animals came there to drink. A giant moose heard about the river and he too came there to drink. But he was so big, and he drank so much, that soon the water began to sink lower and lower.The beavers were worried. The water around their lodges was disappearing. Soon their homes would be destroyed. The muskrats were worried, too. What would they do if the water vanished? How could they live? The fish were very worried. The other animals could live on land if the water dried up, but they couldn't. All the animals tried to think of a way to drive the moose from the river, but he was so big that they were too afraid to try. Even the bear was afraid of him. At last the fly said he would try to drive the moose away. All the animals laughed and jeered. How could a tiny fly frighten a giant moose? The fly said nothing, but that day, as soon as the moose appeared, he went into action. He landed on the moose's foreleg and bit sharply. The moose stamped his foot harder, and each time he stamped, the ground sank and the water rushed in to fill it up. Then the fly jumped about all over the moose, biting and biting and biting until the moose was in a frenzy. He dashed madly about the banks of the river, shaking his head, stamping his feet, snorting and blowing, but he couldn't get rid of that pesky fly. At last the moose fled from the river, and didn't come back. The fly was very proud of his achievement, and boasted to the other animals, "Even the small can fight the strong if they use their brains to think."
I would then say, you are the moose and I am the fly.
Response from the Subaru/ Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers Kate Bullock and Tracy Howard who posed this Situation: When approaching people that are exhibiting "less than Leave No Trace" behaviors, try using the Authority of the Resource Technique, developed by Dr. George N. Wallace. Using this technique, will not only give you a chance to speak for nature, but it will also allow you to educate others on the importance of practicing low-impact camping.
The technique involves three steps:
1. First, after opening conversation with the group, make an objective statement about the observed behavior (avoid value-laden terms such as "you shouldn't, don't, don't you know it's wrong, harmful, against regulations, etc.).
2. Second, explain the implications of the behavior. This is where you can EDUCATE the party about why it is important to protect the water source.
3. Finally, try to provide an alternative on what can (or should) be done to improve the situation. It is important to keep in mind that people are generally not trying to cause unnecessary impacts to the land and it is good to expect the best of people when we can.
Remember education can influence people's behavior. The hope is for long-term change in people's respect for nature in general and an intrinsically motivated stewardship of the out of doors!