Why leave no trace is not enough anymore

Hiking through challenged landscapes

By Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Drawing of a truck filled with nature pass hiker, heading out to see what is left
When “leave no trace” is not enough for troubled landscapes

Is “leave no trace” enoough today, when hikers often have to witness the destruction and unsustainable, short sighted ripping of the landscapes, we care so much about?  

For almost a century the “leave no trace” has been the mantra hikers carried with them on their hikes. But today this logic seems to come short in the face of how commercial fracking, mining, logging and other resource hungry  big enterprises treat nature all over the planet.

Time for change?

I really wonder if we hikers have to take a less observing attitude and go from visitors to caretakers of nature, actively helping the forests, endangered species, polluted rivers, mined mountains and threatened national parks, coastal areas and nature reserves all over the world. Not just being careful not to leave any personal trace, but more: to nurse, sustain and support the ecological systems that is the underlying foundation of our hiking experiences.

From hiking trails to biodiversity corridors

To start with the hiking trails: In almost all places the trails are so much more than just foot paths, they are most often also important biodiversity corridors that play an essential role for a lot of species, and make it possible for these (including endangered species) to move between habitats. The same habitats, lakes, forests, valleys, breeding grounds, beaches etc. that make such good hiking experiences.  We hikers should help upgrade our national trail systems to be sustainable support systems for nature, not just foot paths for humans.

Wild farming for locals, hikers and animals

Second we hikers could be much more active as caretakers of the landscapes we pass through – I wonder if we could learn much more about eating local, while hiking, and about growing, supporting, tasting and taking care of nature’s endemic and local food resources along the trails. A lot of animal-species have lost most of their food resources to commercial farming and a lot of plants,wildlife,  insects and other species are endangered simply because they don’t have any commercial value for the locals.  But these species often play important roles in the local ecology along the hiking trails, and it would, without much effort, be possible to set aside conservation areas that could be used both for securing the thrive of endemic species and also could be used for “wild farming” where both locals,  hikers, birds and other animals could learn about, find use for, taste, relate to and experience the landscapes, plants, fruits and herbs in new and ancient ways

From leave no trace to caretakers

Maybe time and the accelerating amount of endangered species, habitats, landscapes and resources all over the planet has made the “leave no trace” idea too limited, to secure the thrive of the landscapes and species, that are so important for our relationship with nature.

The relationship we hikers depend on when hiking.  Maybe it is time to go from the old visitor logic of “leave no trace” to become much more active caretakers of the hiking trails, landscapes and eco-systems  we walk in and depend on when hiking?

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