Leave No Trace killed Woodcraft… almost

You are likely familiar with Leave No Trace (LNT), if not the organization, at least the concept it promotes in that there are set of principles to enjoy the outdoors responsibly while minimizing environmental impacts. Interestingly, the organization is very strict when it comes to the use of the copyrighted term, it’s logo, and their Seven Principals. Therefore, please take note this article is for educational purposes. That being said, The Seven Principles of LNT in short form are below, but I strongly encourage you to visit their webpage HERE for the details, as in this article, we will be discussing the impact LNT has had on outdoor living skills, especially woodcraft.

The Seven Principals of LNT

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. 
Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. 
Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors


A Brief History of LNT…

Currently, LNT is a non-profit organization founded in 1994, but it was originally created by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in the 1960s to address an increasing public land-use. By the 1980s it was a formal program emphasizing wilderness ethics, sustainable travel, and camping practices. In the early 1990s, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) contributed “hands-on, science-based minimum impact education training for non-motorized recreational activities.” ALL THIS according to LNT’s history.

When I first read LNT was started by the Forest Service, the first thing I thought of was Smokey Bear. With a degree in Forest Resources & Conservation and being an experienced land manager, I am all too familiar with the USFS’s history of fire suppression. Decades of which had ecologically altered our nation’s forests for the worse, not to mention the additional consequences of more dangerous and expensive wildfires.

I am NOT suggesting anything of that magnitude from LNT ecologically. I am just pointing out a flaw in a previous USFS policy as I believe we have one in LNT. What? A government entity did something wrong? Hey, we all have our flaws! And for what it’s worth, the USFS has done some amazing research over many decades. These days, the fact they are getting any management done in the face of tough and changing political climates deserves some kudos! Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for LNT and what they have and continue to do in both outdoor and environmental education.


A Little More History

Let’s start from the beginning. From the article published by Environmental History.net, From Woodcraft to ‘Leave No Trace,’ by James Morton Turner (2002):

“…Between the 1800s and the 1930s, woodcraft formed a coherent recreation ethic, and an important precursor to the modern wilderness movement. For aspiring woodsmen, a selection of manuals promised to reveal the secrets of woodcraft. George Washington Sears penned the first of these, titled Woodcraft, in 1891. In these guidebooks, several characteristics distinguish the woodsman from the walkers and autocampers; his practice of woodcraft celebrated a working knowledge of nature; he exhibited strong misgivings for the abundance of consumer goods available to the outdoorsman. This dual concern – for leisure in the woods, and the consumer economy beyond – emerges as a central tension in woodcraft.

For the woodsman, the woods promised a working vacation. Surveying the table of contents of woodcraft guides such as Horace Kephart’s Camping and Woodcraft (1906), Edward Brecks’s The Way of the Woods (1908) or Elmer Krep’s Camp and Trail Methods (1910) reveals common chapters on essential wilderness know-how. In the outdoors, a woodsman judged himself by his skills in hunting, tanning furs, preserving game, building campfires, setting up shelters, and traveling though the forest. Summing it up, Kephart called woodcraft “the art of getting along well in the wilderness by utilizing nature’s storehouse.” In contrast to walking or autocamping literature, none of these handbooks sought to teach outdoorsmen how to pass through wilderness as a visitor. The real measure of a woodsman was in how skillfully he could recreate wilderness as his home.

Proficiency in woodcraft required an intimate, hands-on knowledge of the woods. These expectations are best set forth in the early Boy Scout manuals. An ax was the young scout’s most important tool. With it, the first edition of the The Official Handbook for Boys (1912) explained, the scout could furnish his entire wilderness camp. Ten straight branches could be assembled into a lean-to; and cut boughs served to thatch the roof. Two lean-tos facing one another made for an especially comfortable camp. In the kitchen, pot lifters, plates, and cups all could be fashioned from sticks and bark. Ernest Seton, in The Woodcraft Manual for Boys (1917), challenged the young woodsman to practice “hatchet cookery” and furnish his entire meal with his hatchet alone. Both the Boy Scout manuals and other woodcraft guides assumed that the skilled woodsman could identify trees (particularly those that burned most cleanly), knew the habits of animals (so he could kill them), and could identify a buffet of edible plants. The woodsman demonstrated his working knowledge of nature by using nature to his own ends.

Nothing troubled the woodsman more than being labeled a tenderfoot…”

Obviously a great deal happened between those days of old-style camping and now. Much of it is attributed to the varying definition of wilderness and its use. There was significant dialogue in late 1950s into the early 1970s on recreation vs. protection. Variables such as increased access through logging roads, increased automobile use, and organizations like the Sierra Club — at first encouraging hikers to get out (backpacking) and then questioning overuse (“saturation of wilderness”), added to the complexity (Turner, 2002).

The use debate was more than just public, it was within the Forest Service itself. With increased wilderness visitation (primarily backpackers) in the early 1960s, the Forest Service policies began to limit wilderness recreation thru permits and more. Regulations and increased disputes intensified after the Wilderness Act of 1964 was passed. The early 1970s saw a further tightening of regulations, and interestingly, an encouragement to visit the backcountry — this to spread out wilderness use as a form of protection, with the side benefit of discouraging many others.

Inevitably, groups wanting support (and protection) for wilderness meant supporting some sort of recreational access. Minimal impact camping was born. A new “modern” wilderness ethic based purely on aesthetics. There was no working knowledge (read understanding) of nature needed.  All one had to know is that if nature was altered, it was wrong.

This ‘modern’ ethic spread across the land, spawning new literature chastising woodcraft while instructing how to “go light” and not “leaving a trace.” It also started a new era of gear where one could literally carry an entire camp on their back. Where once the woodcrafter was a participant in nature, the new backpacker was nothing more than a visitor to the wilderness.

Those 1970s movements led to the 1980s and now federally supported program Leave No Trace. When the minimal-impact wilderness ethic became solidified, it corresponded in time with lower wilderness visitation. A wilderness recreation industry would soon respond with appropriate gear and by further influencing policy and perception.

As shared earlier from LNT’s website on their history, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) contributed “hands-on, science-based minimum impact education training for non-motorized recreational activities.” What LNT didn’t share on their website were companies like North Face, Gregory Mountain Products, and Mountain Safety Research, which also sell clothing, backpacks, and stoves, all financially supported Leave No Trace in the very beginning as well (Turner, 2002). And it’s no coincidence you see LNT’s logo branded all over a host of gear, maps, and more. Even the Boy Scouts jumped on the band wagon in 1998.


THE PROBLEMS WITH LNT

So what’s my knock on LNT, for one, (somewhat jokingly) they are too damn good at delivering a message! So good that today’s camper doesn’t seem to believe they are camping unless they have a backpack full of expensive ultralight gear (coincidentally from the same companies that support LNT financially to use their logo).

“Camping is what you do when you get to camp, and hiking is only one of many ways you may choose to get there.” Steve Watts and David Wescott articulate well in the December 2014 edition of American Frontiersman magazine. They also point out that “backpacking killed camping,” a word that didn’t even show up in outdoor literature until the 1940s.

Before this paradigm shift, backpacking was known as woodsrunning or trampingLightweight campers of the era (like today) were involved in the consumer-based economy of the outdoor industry — buying the ‘latest’ gear and gizmos from outfitters like Abercrombie and Fitch and others. But, they were also in touch with a long-standing tradition of modifying and hand-crafting their camp gear from dependable materials such as canvas, leather, brass, wood (poles and frames), and steel — a tradition that connected them more closely to the frontier skills of the not-too-distant past. Now we have the unfortunate model that backpacking is camping, driven by the LNT crowd.

Consequently, through promotion and those fore mentioned corporate relationships, the masses get (expensive) lightweight gear to fit the paradigm. This “new” gear is not only NOT near as efficient or dependable, in some respects, one could also argue it isn’t as environmentally ethical either. Or at the very least, LNT as a philosophy doesn’t think globally. Canvas vs. petroleum-based nylon for shelters. Wool vs. synthetic for clothing. And then there is the fire vs. stove argument.

From the LNT website on Principal 5: Minimize Campfire Impacts:

Fires vs. Stoves: The use of campfires, once a necessity for cooking and warmth, is steeped in history and tradition. Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Campfire building is also an important skill for every camper. Yet, the natural appearance of many areas has been degraded by the overuse of fires and an increasing demand for firewood. The development of light weight efficient camp stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire. Stoves have be come essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. They are fast, flexible, and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. Stoves operate in almost any weather condition, and they Leave No Trace.

First off, sorry, but stoves do leave a trace. There is a hole somewhere in the earth where the rare earth elements were mined to build the stove and fuel container. There is a hole somewhere in the sky from the smokestack where they were manufactured. There is a pipe in the ground or under the ocean somewhere for the fuel to make the stove work and the boat and truck that brought them to you.

Am I saying don’t use stoves? NO! They have tremendous value in sensitive areas, above tree line, and more. But if you are going to expound on an environmental ethic, realize at the end of the day, there is only one wilderness and we all live in it. They skipped that part in the LNT training I went through.


CONSERVATION vs. PRESERVATION

Once a necessity for cooking and warmth…

The development of light weight efficient camp stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire.

Leave what you find!” — the fourth principal of LNT.

Sometimes it feels like we are being preached to by a TV evangelist. Break one of the SEVEN COMMANDMENTS (I mean principals), and you will go to HELL! Everything must be PRESERVED. Well, preservation means to keep something exactly the same and Mother Nature doesn’t work that way.

Unlike the fossil fuels to run the stove, not to mention the materials to build it, firewood is a renewable resource! They make it sound the other way around. Shame on them! There is no such thing as leaving no trace. No matter what you do, you will be making a impact! Like the USFS did with fire suppression, in the long-run, LNT will end up hurting what they are trying to protect as it has made more than a generation of outsiders to the natural world.

Instead, we should learn about nature as a participant. By doing to so in a respectful manner with the proper guidance, you will find a conservation ethic allowing you to tread lightly across the landscape the way it was intended by our Creator.

“Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.”
— Aldo Leopold, U.S. Conservationist and Forester

That being said, it is more than worth noting that the skilled and ethical woodsman can not only have a campfire (in most areas) of which you will see little to no trace, but the environment can be improved at the same time. If the energy put towards LNT was put towards sound outdoor knowledge versus what is deemed common sense purely through aesthetics, we’d all be better off.


Woodcraft isn’t the only loss… WILDERNESS SURVIVAL!

So go ahead and get out there in the backcountry, but don’t worry about the second most important outdoor skill, FIRE. Unfortunately, I have experienced firsthand the degradation of outdoor skills in BSA and elsewhere driven by LNT…

  • Avoid using hatchets, saws, or breaking branches off standing or downed trees. Dead and down wood burns easily, is easy to collect and leaves less impact.
  • Use small pieces of wood no larger than the diameter of an adult wrist that can be broken with your hands.
  • Gather wood over a wide area away from camp. Use dry drift wood on rivers and sea shores.

The above is again from LNT. While it isn’t the responsibility of LNT to teach woodsmanship or modern survival skills, nonetheless, their principals have pushed away man’s relationship to nature and a valuable tool in fire.

I want to make a very important point about fire here from an educational standpoint; when it comes to your well being in a survival situation, you forget about LNT and do what you have to do. Fire maybe the only means available to make up for deficiencies in clothing and/or shelter, especially when compromised.

If through all your experience (and training), you haven’t learned the difference between a cooking fire and how to build a large warming fire, or even know how to light a fire with natural materials because you only know how to use a modern stove, I strongly suggest you learn if you spend time in the backcountry.


EVERYTHING IN MODERATION

Like most things in life, too much of a good thing will end up hurting you. I believe that is what has happened to the environmentally uneducated with LNT. Too much in too many places where man should instead be a part of the environment like he was intended, not just an observer who takes only pictures and leaves only footprints. You might as well as be an astronaut visiting the moon if that is all you do in nature.

We are NOT visitors here on Earth. This is our home and the home of our ancestors. How could one truly learn enough to form a conservation ethic to take care of environment when forcing themselves to constantly be an outsider?

Don’t get me wrong, in high traffic and sensitive areas I am a huge fan of treading lightly, even using a stove. Personally, I use a supercat stove I make from used diced chili cans with denatured alcohol for fuel, when and where it makes sense.


A SLOW COMEBACK

Woodcraft appears to be making a comeback, albeit very slowly.  In my opinion, the reason for the slow return is four-fold.

  1. We have had roughly 50 years of Leave No Trace evangelism.
  2. There is an increasingly uneducated population that primarily lives in urban and suburban environments and elects an over-regulatory government.
  3. There are so many mediums of information these days, most of which are commercialized, those new to camping are overwhelmed, forced into a backpacking paradigm by that industry, and then guilted into LNT for its simple aesthetic approach which requires no ecological understanding.
  4. Much of today’s outdoor skill information is poorly taught and comes with very little context due to the presenter’s source of information, slack research, and minimal experience. While not intentional by the majority who want to share what they know, this loss of context unto itself is disappointing and dangerous as much of it passes as “wilderness survival.”


MASTER WOODSMEN OF YESTERYEAR

As mentioned earlier, it was folks like Seton, Beard, Kephart, White, Sears, Miller, Harding, Jaeger, Mason and others who first started to capture in literature many of the indigenous and frontier skills we now see coming back to the forefront. Perhaps, even unknowingly, people are looking to these original sources because they know in their hearts something is missing today.

Fortunately for us, there are folks out there promoting Woodcraft and Old Style Camping. Master Woodsmen of today such as Steve Watts and David Wescott are bringing to the forefront the skills, gear, philosophy and perhaps most importantly, spirit, from those Master Woodsmen of Yesteryear.

As a Master Woodsman reader, you and I are fortunate to call Watts and Wescott friends of the site. Their contributions here, and elsewhere, as well as the those we have listed in the schools and resource sections of this website are greatly appreciated. Hats off to the ACORN Patrol Classic Camping Demonstration Team and others promoting this outdoor knowledge too!

Our country has changed tremendously in the last century. Amazingly, the 117 year old Camp-Fire Club of America has never wavered. As they started over a 100 years ago at Ernest Thompson Seton’s Wyndygoul during the first Outing in 1910, to this day, many woodcraft and other other practical outdoor skills are kept alive through competitions held twice a year. They also do outreach into the BSA and continue conservation efforts as they have since their beginning.

Camp-Fire Club of American Outing 1910

Camp-Fire Club of America, 1910 Outing

What LNT has done to Woodcraft, in my mind, is an analogy of what society has done to self-reliance in general. Where the frontier and Depression era had spit out men and women of hard stock who knew how to take care of themselves and understood the land, our society in the last several generations has gone the other way. This article only offers a perspective, not an ethic. It is truly up to you to have an interest in the natural resources around you, learn the effects of your outdoor living practices, form a conservation ethic, and abide by those good practices.

Finally, to you the backpacker on the Appalachian Trail: The next time you are in the north Georgia mountains walking along that high Duncan Ridge section, if you smell woodsmoke coming up from one of the hollows, it’s probably me and my friends. Don’t worry though, there isn’t a trail to get to where we are, so no one will see our primitive camp. But if someone did catch us there, I know they would appreciate the campfire, the comfort of my wood frame bed, camp furniture, as well as some of the cooking accoutrements, all supplied by Mother Nature herself. The woods will look healthy where we are too, as Mother Nature has provided as she has told us. That suppressed tree and alike that were overcrowding its neighbors inviting pests and disease are now gone. In fact that is why we camped here, to participate in the environment in a positive way. And when the smoke clears and we have left, we will have burned most of what I have used to ash. What little charcoal is left is ground to a powder and spread into the forest as fertilizer. Where our fire once burned is now undetectable as we have scattered debris and leaf litter over it to prevent erosion. Yes, we took more than pictures, but we left something better, in the forest and in ourselves.

FlintstoneChair

 

SUGGESTIONS

Attend WOODSMOKE – The International Classic Camping Symposium
Rexburg, ID. July 12 – 18, 2015

READ

Turner, James Morton. From Woodcraft to ‘Leave No Trace.’
Environmental History, 2002. PDF

Tyron, Don. Leave-A-Trace
Editorial, 2007. Blog

Camping in the Old Style by David Wescott, Coming July 1st
COS_book_cover

About Christian Noble

Chris Noble is the founder of MasterWoodsman.com and Woodsmoke Camping Company. A Master Naturalist, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and has worked as a Registered Forester and Certified Burn Manager in several states. Chris is also a Wilderness First Responder and since the late 90’s has been “practicing primitive” skills and taking lessons from numerous Master Woodsmen throughout North America. An advocate for Conservation, teacher of Wilderness Living Skills, and happily married, he enjoys passing what he has learned thus far to others, especially his 2 children, Emerson and Duncan.

54 Responses to Leave No Trace killed Woodcraft… almost

  1. survivalsherpa@gmail.com'
    Todd Walker March 2, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

    Christian, out of the park, bud!! Every thing you’ve so eloquently penned sits right because, well, it just is!

    • Christian Noble March 2, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

      Thank you for the comment Todd, greatly appreciated!

    • scottf488@gmail.com'
      Itto September 4, 2015 at 11:44 am #

      Hello,

      Just wanted to thank you for putting to words what I have felt for the past two decades. I am a full time environmental/adventure educator and primitive survival instructor, for the past twenty years I have seen a complete loss of traditional human skills, and natural knowledge and a spiritual amputation of humans to their environment. I have been studying primitive living skills for over twenty years and have seen LNT ethics directly correlate with the loss of true wilderness SKILLS. These LNT instructors have the nerve to call themselves outdoorsman when you can become a master educator in a week course, Ive been studying Primitive living skills for over half my life and would never call myself a master of anything, there is too much to learn. The standards of Outdoor “professionals” today is appalling, with the average instructor not able to identify more than a deer track or a single use of a plant and have no idea how to use a knife. To the individuals who talk about the bear dont use axes and the deer dont need furniture I ask you this what is our (humans) greatest ability. Adaptability, we are far removed from our home in Africa, the reason we can survive and have survived for so long all over the world is because of our ancestors and the skills they have passed on so show some respect.

  2. Christian Noble March 3, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

    As there has been a lot of discussion across multiple Facebook groups on this article, I would like to add a few things here from those conversations.

    First, this was a difficult subject to tackle. No message will satisfy everyone, nor is there a right answer as no human can comprehend all the complexities of Mother Nature. However, we owe it to her and future generations our best efforts. I think that is something upon which we can all agree.

    To be clear, I am all for protecting those high use and ecologically sensitive areas such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, etc. The big problem with LNT is it’s one-size fits all approach and potential impact on the future. Yes there is language in LNT that leaves an “out” for varied use, but that is not what they broadly preach and practice. Those impacts can be seen far and wide, especially in BSA. Bless those few and far between Scout leaders who still teach valuable outdoor skills.

    To paraphrase what I stated in the article, through LNT’s wide adoption, we are creating further disconnects to truly participate in nature. By expanding that gap, in the long-term, I believe we are setting ourselves up for less people that understand and therefore care about natural spaces.

    In the early 1900s, little was known about the ecological role of fire in the environment; hence the tremendous efforts in fire suppression all the way up until recent history. I am sure folks back then felt really good about what they were doing… “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires!” was literally Smokey’s message up until just a few years ago. Now it’s “prevent wildfires.”

    Like those that led the efforts in fire suppression many decades ago, I am sure the LNT leaders of today feel not just good, but great, about their efforts. It is unlikely I, or they, will live long enough to see the end results of LNT. My concern is their focus is so much on what is right-now, they don’t see the “fuel load” they are creating in ignorance towards Mother Nature. The history books will probably read like this…

    “Leave No Trace was a program started in the mid to late 1900s to prevent a recreational overuse of designated wilderness and ecologically sensitive areas. Through promotion and corporate sponsorships, it quickly spread to most public lands and even private lands through its simple aesthetics-based do-not-touch approach towards the natural environment. Overtime, this resulted in a population that knew less and less about how to participate in their natural world. After several generations, they eventually stopped caring about what they did not understand and developed the natural resources….”

    200 years from now, the above will likely be read on Mars or Titan and LNT will be pinned as the catalyst that destroyed the planet… 😉

    • marcjenks@gmail.com'
      Marc Jenks May 24, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

      I am in favor of managed land use (including logging, camping, etc). I see your knowledge and passion for your points, but talk about ridiculous hyperbole in your last sentence above.

      I am a Scoutmaster and a life-long camper and it has been interesting to try to influence and change behavior of scouts and their outdoors-man fathers who are anti-LNT.

      I would be happy to see just a few of my fellow outdoor enthusiasts not crap behind a bush and leave TP partially buried where it will blow away and tangle/shred in brush.
      I would be happy to not see remnants of cans and any and all other trash in a cold firepit.
      I would be happy to not be surrounded by campers who have no regard for quiet as they camp in a National Park among other campers.

      As I learned about LNT, it was easy to embrace because there are a few “over-use” things that piss me off (like those above). You also imply that use of synthetics, while well meaning, are the real problem in the wilderness use practices. LNT is not a global “Earth Day” ethic, it is a Wilderness ethic, and nothing more. The amount of synthetic material produced and sold at REI is perhaps an issue eclipsed by at least 1000 other earth uses, to follow your hyperbolic style.

      Overall, I enjoyed your essay.

  3. puljo88@yahoo.com'
    Mladen Puljić March 4, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

    Excellent article. I really appreciate your work on this website. Some of this issues are well elaborated in Mors Kochanski booklet “Fire Use In Northern Forest Survival”. In a broader sense George Carlin well concludes: “We’re so self-important. So self-important. Everybody’s going to save something now. “Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails.” And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet. What? Are these f*****g people kidding me? Save the planet, we don’t even know how to take care of ourselves yet. We haven’t learned how to care for one another, we’re gonna save the f*****g planet?”

    We need to learn more and care less. If the learning process is driven by healthy reasons, then the learned knowledge should build the right approach and ethics.

    Greetings from Croatia!

    • Christian Noble March 4, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

      Love the Carlin perspective Mladen! Thanks for sharing!

  4. leaman110@gmail.com'
    Randy Breeuwsma March 6, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

    Another excellent article that few people want to talk about.

  5. jmarion@vt.edu'
    Jeff Marion March 9, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

    As a scientist who studies visitor impacts to protected natural areas I’d like to respectfully disagree with the points you raise about Leave No Trace in this article. The Leave No Trace program did not cause or promote the transition from heavy, bulky camping gear to lightweight backpacking gear – that happened due to the individual choices of millions of outdoor visitors beginning in the 1970’s (LNT began in the 1990s). The Leave No Trace program does not tell visitors to stop using campfires, it only promotes learning low impact practices that avoid or minimize the impacts of campfires. Such information is indeed necessary – consider Great Smoky Mountains National Park where I did a study of backcountry camping impacts. Our research tallied 2,377damaged trees and 3,366 cut tree stumps on or near campsites. Last summer I did a similar study in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and we found 18 tree stumps per campsite – that equates to 36,000 felled trees for the area’s 2000 campsites. The Leave No Trace program responds to this damage by teaching low impact practices; our land managers are responding by increasingly prohibiting campfires. Which do you prefer?

    • Christian Noble March 9, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

      Hi Jeff – thank you very much for the feedback.

      LNT as an organization started in 1994, but was a policy (with multiple names and significant influence) starting in 1960/70s and was a formal USFS program in the 1980s based on my research. You make mention of pre-90 activities in your paper here too. If you have additional documentation on timelines, I would be happy to make any corrections to those facts.

      As a previous land manager who at one point was responsible for the silvicultural activities on 1M acres and for the planting of hundreds of millions of trees, I would like to put into context your findings as the numbers you mention will sound devastating to some. In God We Trust, everybody else bring data is my motto.

      The 18 trees across 2,000 campsites (36K trees), in my quick estimation, equates to LESS THAN ONE average timber sale on a National Forest. Ironically, the Forest Service, who started LNT, in one clear-cut takes out tens of thousands of trees (valued for their timber) in a matter of weeks, not to mention the hundreds of thousands non-value woody trees and plants. YET, I can’t cut one live tree for my use on the other side of the sale boundary because of an aesthetically-based do-not-touch approach to management. By the way, I am not attacking the policy of clear-cutting trees — a renewable resource based on those even-aged species is the right management plan for most environments, especially if we want paper with which to wipe our behinds, cellulose in our toothpaste and food, houses to live in, and thousands of other products. I am just using it to an extreme in illustrating a point.

      I, and those who I have spoken with about the article and agree with the perspective, DO believe in protecting (as needed) sensitive areas as you mention. It bothers me probably much more than it bothers most to see trees wounded for no reason, ragged stumps, and the all too common scattered garbage seen at many designated campsites. While aesthetically unpleasing, there are additional forest health concerns in some circumstances. Being a regular visitor to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park myself, as well as the surrounding National Forests, there is far more damage across the entire area from the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid than the millions of human visitors I am afraid. Where you tallied over 3K trees cut, the Adelgid will kill millions of trees in the park as well as forever alter the ecosystem. But that is another issue. Save the Hemlocks!

      I think we actually agree in many areas, as I want sensitive areas protected too, we just arrive at that agreement from different directions.

      My friends and the regular readers of this blog are of a demographic that subscribe to a conservation ethic that is appalled to conditions of most designated campsites and high use areas as you mention. We have common ground here!

      Where we (or at least me) differ is in that I have seen too often the LNT crowd overlook the “other” impacts of LNT. For one, there is no such thing as not leaving a trace; you will be making an impact no matter what as fore mentioned in the article. While that may sound like splitting hairs, it’s not when you spread it out over time and you don’t educate beyond the aesthetics. It’s like an article I saw last year where the author was bragging that New England forests have made a comeback from the field and farm they were some 100 years ago. People need to be reminded that their food is coming from somewhere — there is now a field in California and Mexico and its takes more non-renewable fossil fuels to deliver.

      I don’t want to rehash the degradation in outdoor skills, but a widely adopted policy of “you can only look and no longer touch” has done just that. While it may be perceived as splitting hairs again, as LNT doesn’t state unequivocally state “stop using fires,” it has made a significant impact in that regard, and that paradigm shift alone changed much of the gear. Just 2 years ago as a leader in BSA I attended a LNT training — the trainer had great intentions, but no context of being a participant in the natural world. There is no escape, you can’t even buy a saw without the reminder…

      http://boyslife.org/outdoors/askgearguy/137936/a-good-durable-camp-saw/

      I truly appreciate the reply and know there is much to learn from both sides. I welcome a verbal conversation on the subject. I will send you an email with my contact information if you are interested.

      Regards,

      Chris

    • sdadvocate@lnt.org'
      Tracy Sigdestad March 11, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

      Jeff,
      I thank you for your research and studies. i have used so much of them as resources in my MS in Sustainability degree I’m pursuing. I wanted to show that there is concrete science behind the messaging, not just a list of do’s and dont’s that sometimes comes across in the messaging to some types of audiences…especially where I live. I’m the State Advocate for LNT in SD. I also had the honor of meeting Ben Lawhon & Jason Grubb this past November when I attended a ME Instructor course in Kentucky/Indiana. I was also given the current copy of your Leave No Trace in the Outdoors. Thank you for your continuing efforts!

    • oraclewatchman@hotmail.com'
      Oracle March 16, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

      I question your claiming to be a “scientist”. From what university did you graduate, with what degree, in what discipline were your studies, and how does your particular University degree qualify you in “visitor impact studies”? Most importantly, who was your employer at the time of these studies, and what were the preconceived results that you were expected to deliver to your employer? Who are the “we” who took part in the “similar study in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area”? was it a coincidence (or mere fabrication on your part) that there were exactly 18 “tree stumps” at each campsite? Your remark is generic to the point of being none believable.

      • Christian Noble March 16, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

        According to his book on LNT in the Outdoors, “Jeffrey L. Marion, PhD, was a founding member of the Leave No Trace board of directors and spent a decade as chairman of the Educational Review Committee, helping to develop LNT’s principles, outdoor practices, courses, and educational materials. He is currently employed by the U.S. Geological Survey and stationed at Virginia Tech University, where he is also an adjunct professor in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.”

        While we see things differently, I am glad he and others are a part of the ongoing discussion.

  6. sdadvocate@lnt.org'
    Tracy Sigdestad March 11, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    I’m a LNT state advocate & Master Ed Instructor for LNT. I also teach backcountry & winter skills. There is a place for both. You are talking about skilled and ethical woodmans, is that the majority? For LNT, in my experience the message is aimed at those weekend warrior camp from your car or not too far from it folks that create the most impact because they are unaware. Folks that leave trash all over, or constantly make fire rings and leave trash in those, who wash their dishes in the water sources. Too many people think their actions wont matter, but it is the cumulative actions of the many that leave the impact. Also for me, it is all about reconnecting people, especially kids, with their natural environment and being respectful.
    The gear comments made me chuckle. I do see how it can be interpreted that way, but it’s not because of LNT, it’s because of gear junkies and consumerism. I use a stove, it is called a biolite, which uses wood…http://biolitestove.com/. I swear by wool, however i also like to have as little weight on my back as possible.
    Lnt isn’t just about camping & backpacking, it is about all types of recreation.
    Leave What you Find has been successful in spreading awareness about the spread of invasive species, especially aquatics.
    LNT is constantly researching and studying and looking at the science of things, it isn’t just a set of rules someone made up. Times change and LNT is aware of this, which is why there is continual research.
    As a woodman…do you consider yourself as having a connection with your natural world? I would think so, that connection IS respect, and we take care of what we are connected to and respect.
    The two sides may differ, but to me we are both more similar than one may think.
    I believe in LNT & I believe in survival and being skilled in the backcountry in all elements. I’m also a Wilderness First Responder and let me tell you the amount of people who could have benefited from a little LNT #1…Plan Ahead & Prepare…I would surmise that you also instruct others on this, but is called something different.
    LNT aims to bring awareness to help protect the lands we all love and tries to teach those skills. From your article it seems as if you as well aim to teach skills for people to be ethical and skilled woodman.
    As I said, it is all about awareness and respect, LNT isn’t talking about survival, that is completely out of it’s scope.

    On a side note, i started off my wilderness life and skills, living off the land & tramping, which I still call it. However as people lost these skills and connection with the natural world, and seeing the places I loved being ruined and trashed by careless and unaware people, I saw the need for LNT too.
    I appreciate your article. I encourage you to check out some of the science & research behind the principles too.https://lnt.org/teach/research.
    Thank you for being a skilled and ethical woodsman.

  7. medicman8599@twlakes.net'
    Alonzo "Medicman" Westbrook March 11, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    As a Scoutmaster for 20 years , I have taught my Scouts good woodcraft fundamentals . I have an old copy of Woods Wisdom , and a couple of older Scout hand books that helps me show the boys how to do it right

    • Anonymous March 12, 2015 at 9:50 am #

      As a Cub Scout leader it saddens me to see the cub camps becoming more of a hotel stay in which the rooms are traded for a wall tent with concrete floor. Activities are classroom type craft sessions in order to keep the boys “safe”. I recently witnessed a parent freaking out over a lost tent stake. I told him to make one from a tree limb. He then asked to borrow my knife since he didn’t have one. Geez…. There are those of us who still teach woodcraft skills and my Dad’s 1946 handbook is a great resource.

  8. jwrobelinva@gmail.com'
    Jeff Wrobel March 11, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    Chris,

    Thanks for the thoughtful & practical look at Woodcraft and Wilderness Use. Our forefathers knew well the benefits of living in harmony with nature. Somewhere along the way we squandered that knowledge. As a Society, we have made nature into a documentary – something that is watched closely but is not to be touched. Instead, I believe that we have an obligation to be stewards of our environment – use its resources wisely while not trampling it in the process.

    “Leave Things Better Than You Found Them” to me is a better wilderness philosophy than “Leave Not Trace”.

    • sdadvocate@lnt.org'
      Tracy Sigdestad March 11, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

      With today’s reliance on technology, people have lost the connection with their natural world. Every day we lose more and more indigenous knowledge of the plant medicines and foods available.However lots of those are lost too due to invasive species and being wiped out.
      I’m also a boy scout & girl scout merit badge counselor, I stepped down from leader because I’m finishing a Master’s in Sustainability…focusing on sustainable forestry & community supported agriculture/local growers. Our outdoor leader badge workshops covers LNT and many outdoor skills, they can compliment one another greatly.
      As well as being the state advocate for LNT & a Master Ed instructor for LNT, I’m also the state coordinator here in SD for Project Learning Tree which uses “forests as the windows to the world”. Its all about getting people outside and active, learning, using all of their senses…touching, seeing, listening, everything! PLT advances environmental literacy and promotes stewardship through excellence in environmental education, and is committed to creating a future where the next generation values the natural world and has the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed decisions and take responsible actions to sustain forests and the broader environment. I use LNT & PLT activities in both programs and in BS & GS.
      The natural world is just not appreciated anymore, heck one on one conversations are even becoming extinct with social media & texting.
      I agree, leaving it better than you found it may be easier for folks to connect with. It is something I model anytime I do an outdoor program. We always take bags to pick up trash. Our scout troop earned their messenger of peace badge by caring for our Mickelson Trail…a 109 mile rails to trails trail.
      Still I will echo Aldo Leopold’s legacy and wisdom and if you are ever able to visit his land & shack in Baraboo Wisconsin, you should….”
      “Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

  9. Christian Noble March 11, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    Bless those Scout Masters teaching woodcraft!

    Tracy – small world, I used to be a Project Learning Tree facilitator. Ben reached out to me too of which I will be giving him a call to discuss. Look forward to speaking with him based on his initial note in how LNT interfaces with primitive living skills.

    • sdadvocate@lnt.org'
      Tracy Sigdestad March 11, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

      Wow, definitely a small world! All of these programs compliment one another in many ways. Ultimately i think all of our goals are the same…respect, love, and connection to our natural world being instilled in people so they can become active and informed stewards of our lands we all love.

  10. jessrumburg@gmail.com'
    Jess March 11, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    Hi Christian,

    You equate low impact camping with being a visitor. For me, I feel like a visitor when I practice all of the woodcraft that you talk about. Deer don’t need to hatchet tree down to make furniture, bears don’t hibernate on cots. Although my lashings are top notch, I enjoy moving through the woods as much like any other creature, as opposed to coming in and imposing my will on a site. I take LNT as a challenge to push myself. I can practice survival skills, and do it in a low impact way. But that’s just me. I taught outdoor skills to scouts for many years. I enjoy woodcraft, but for me, carrying an axe and cutting a chair is as much a waste of effort as packing a camp chair. Man has spent much more of his time sitting on the ground (or a fallen log or stone) than cutting trees to make a seat. I do appreciate the skills involved, but it’s like knots. Sure, I can tie 50 off hand, but I only use 5 or so regularly. At my camp, Troops would cut new poles every week. Finally, I couldn’t find any for my classes, and scouts were using increasingly poor quality poles. So the camp director and I cut a set of strong, straight trees that could be borrowed by scouts, used, returned, properly stored, and used again the next year.
    I absolutely agree that many skills are not being passed on, or are not being passed on well, but that isn’t LNTs fault. LNT goes hand in hand with other ideologies. I’ve met Mr. Gregory and am familiar with the founders of North Face. They are true outdoorsmen, and donate to LNT because it is a great ethic that was not being passed on, because of its existential nature. That’s why it goes well with light weight backpacking. But also with front-county camping. Sure, some of it is asthetic, but much of it is not, like choosing the most resilient path when hiking, or managing your waste. Nobody likes fields of tp and other land mines. Yes, LNT can be poorly taught, but it can also be done well. We need skilled people like you to help educate people, but let’s work together to keep people recreating in a thoughtful way.

  11. hobbss001@hawaii.rr.com'
    Ponani March 11, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

    As a long time scouter, who grew up in the woods of Minnesota, I appreciate both sides of the argument. As with most things in life, there is some happy medium in the middle. In scouts we want, we need, our boys and girls to appreciate the wild and how those who came before us lived in it. Such knowledge is invaluable in life and their growth. However, the reality is also that a thousand acres shows little impact if 10-40 people build a shelter, have a campfire, dig a latreen. Put 3,000 people on that same 1,000 acres and you have dump site. We all can’t go out and cut trees, dig pits, etc. so we moved to LNT philosophy. Greatest good for the greatest number.

  12. jontbruce+feedback@gmail.com'
    Jon March 11, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    Chris – I really enjoyed your article. I think woodcraft still exists in scouting. Camp gadgets, wilderness survival, pioneering, lashing, axe yards, building shelters… It does in my kid’s troop. We also teach LNT. We don’t cut down live trees (very often… fire by friction bows).

    One of our scout camps is ~68 acres and serves around 2000 scouts a year. “Ten straight branches could be assembled into a lean-to; and cut boughs served to thatch the roof. ” times 2000 would pretty quickly turn the entire camp into a wasteland.

    We have a responsibility to preserve wild spaces. LNT is a set of PRINCIPLES for enjoying outdoors responsibly.

    Until there is an actual emergency, a real survival situation, EHOWA or someones goes off the grid on their own property, we should encourage responsible woodcraft/bushcraft practices in public spaces. Your example of putting stuff back kind of like you found it, scattering ashes, should have been the lead of the story. More people need to hear that message. Even the original woodcraft authors practiced some of leave no trace principles, removing traps, extinguishing fires, breaking camp. Conservation HAS to be part of the woodcraft conversation.

    Last summer in the BWCA, I got a camp site where the previous residents had throw several days worth of MRE’s and packaging in the pit toilet and the fire pit. How hard would it have been to pack that out or leave it neatly behind so that someone else could pack it out?

    Every author/educator/survival show should cover their conservation philosophy. It may not be as sexy as cutting stuff down and building stuff, but it is still important.

  13. thundernotes@yahoo.com'
    Brian March 11, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    Great article, Christian!

    I too am a fan of the “big picture” when looking at conservation.

    I’m working on restoring the woodcraft skills I had as a kid growing up in Vermont. It’s not as easy at 50 as it was when I was 13. I think I have my old Boy Scout manual around here somewhere….

    🙂 Looking forward to reading more from you.

  14. pneve@flighthiking.com'
    Pete March 12, 2015 at 10:20 am #

    This is a wonderful article. Camping has become and exercise in eating dehydrated food from plastic pouches, on plastic plates, in a plastic tent with plastic sporks. Returning to woodcraft is liberating and allows you to travel lighter, because after all, knowledge weighs nothing.

  15. suproguitar@gmail.com'
    Jeff Clark March 12, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    Hi Chris- I enjoyed your essay. I did not take your promotion of woodcraft skills as a contradiction of the concept of minimum impact camping and travel. In fact, a skilled naturalist has a breadth of knowledge and a depth of respect for the environment and skills that tend toward choices that have minimal impact. I worked for ten years in the North Cascades National Park as a mountaineering ranger, and my partner and I prided ourselves on practicing skills for efficient camping and travel while leaving little or no impact in fragile (especially subalpine and alpine) landscapes. Skills such as the ability to build a fire in challenging conditions, the use of line and a tarp to set up a shelter, routefinding with map and compass are not skills that are possessed by all modern backpackers. I used to have this conversation with my students (I also taught high school English) when we talked about what it means to be a “real man” (in the context of reading Chinua Achebe’s novel *Things Fall Apart*), I often shared with students that it is a personal prejudice of mine that a “real man” should have a basic competency in the outdoors. The competency that comes from hiking, camping, and being observant of nature in the outdoors. And I mean this not in relation to some macho or sexist exclusionary attitude toward women, but rather what I think is an important and fundamental aspect of the human experience. Cheers, Jeff Clark

  16. YankeeSurvival@GMail.com'
    Yankee March 12, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    Along the lines of Woodcraft making a comeback…

    I have been screaming from the proverbial mountain tops about Woodcraft VS Bushcraft in the online community. I can’t tell you enough how much I value your MasterWoodsman page. Please keep up the evangelization Christian.

    Yankee
    Greenhorn Woodsman
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/SurvivalistBaseCamp/

  17. Randy March 12, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    A rather biased article. Horace Kephart’s Camping and Woodcraft (1906), US poulation 85 million, today 315 million. Many more people out in the forests. And as for the hole for stove metal it’s a lot larger for the axes, hatchets, saws and knives so popular with woodcrafters. As for my stove fuel, alcohol is a renewable resource from corn, unlike the petroleum jelly the great woodcrafters use on there cottonballs. To me, leaving structure in the forest is an ugly sight in nature. Then, to many large forest fires are being created by people in the bush. Peoples lives being destroyed because of people that have to have a campfire. Civilization has grown to close to the great forests to allow fires.

    • Alan Halcon March 19, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

      Randy, I think you missed the point. It is the irony of LNT that encourages more to purchase those petroleum based products and digging deeper mines. Woodcrafting makes “NO” such prophesying. But, as I am sure you know, that alcohol stove you use (aluminum can I bet) was mined somehow and processed, so ultimately it would end up in your hands to use as a stove. Moreover, I am sure you have a kitchen full of knives, spoons and forks. And a garage with some tools and automobile you drive with rubber tires no less. My feeling is if people are going to preach LNT is they should have a congruent lifestyle.

      And for the record, not everyone is into petroleum based cotton balls… I’m definitely not!

  18. Aaron March 13, 2015 at 11:49 am #

    Christian,

    I appreciate your passion for woodcraft and the outdoors. I agree that the outdoors are lost for so many young people, especially with the advent of new technologies. However, I believe that Leave No Trace is an applicable set of guidelines in any outdoor environment and for various outdoor activities.

    The set of principles enable the outdoor user to leave public lands without damaging the same natural beauty that the user came for. Many people go to the outdoors to experience the beauty and immerse themselves in the tranquility of them, there isn’t much regard for how they can utilize the local timber in an ethical way to create a semi-permanent campground. Not all outdoor users are woodsman–and this should be good news for woodsmen. Getting your hands dirty, thinking critically about how to engineer with natural materials, and using your own physical force to achieve work aren’t things that appeal to everyone.
    The high-tech camper plays video games for fun and can tell you where to find the next geocache and precisely how far he walked that day and how far he will have to go tomorrow, and hopefully he can use the outdoors the way he wants to without destroying it for everyone else. Camping has always been about going to the wilderness with some gear and enjoying nature, but now that the wilderness is limited in its expanse and everyone wants to enjoy them, we have to set some sort of standard for how people should behave, otherwise people will destroy them as they destroy most everything that is publicly owned.

    I consider LNT a set of guidelines because I interpret them to be dependent on the user’s own experience in the outdoors and which outdoors they are going to use. A Boy Scout troop of thirty can easily widen trails, clearcut understory, permanently damage and kill many large trees and burn all of the firewood within sight in one short week (I’ve been on camp staff for a dozen years, so I know). With LNT the scout troop can become a model for the temporary outdoor user by creating a minimal impact, using resources wisely, and respecting nature and other outdoor users. Woodsmen can also use LNT as a set of guidelines to treat the outdoors they use with care. A group of seven woodsmen might not create a large impact on the environment that they use, but fifty groups of seven woodsmen each can greatly alter an ecosystem and decimate resources on a few dozen acres of land.

    Leave No Trace is successful in spreading its message and gaining ground, but they also cater to a variety of outdoor activities in their message of low-impact land use. LNT training for hunters, canoers, ATV riders, equestrians, dog walkers, SCUBA divers, cross country skiers, and mountain bikers aids everyone that experiences the wilderness by enacting a moral code conduct for outdoor behavior. I enjoy that the outdoors aren’t overcrowded and littered; that I don’t have to see a campfire spot every hundred feet on the trail; that I can easily find a rotting log with fungi, ants, bees, salamanders, vegetation, shrews, and/or ferns all living on or in it; that the sign of human presence is limited and some spaces are kept wild. When I do see a distressed area I’m not always disheartened, but when I see an entire forest in distress because of a couple thousand visitors each year, I am concerned. I don’t despise woodsman–the ability to use available natural resources for camping and survival and enjoyment is something that I think is honorable. But conservation of land for outdoor recreation can’t support thousands of woodsmen in every park without some sort of standard for how to make the impact of thousands as minimal as possible.

    I think that LNT isn’t a rigid rule book for limiting outdoors and its users, but a way of thinking and acting in order to conserve the outdoors during recreation.

  19. pat.migliozzi@gmail.com'
    Pat migliozzi March 19, 2015 at 8:28 am #

    Great article and much appreciated by a fellow forester. I did not realize the history or LNT. There were always many things about it that I disagree with. Mainly that we are only visitors and nature must be preserved. Yeah right.

    A few years ago here in Ohio we did a focus group on forestry, management, and conservation vs preservation. what was interesting was that everyone in the room (about 15 or so) thought that preservation meant wise use of the land and proper management and that conservation meant essentially preservation. I was sort of taken back by this. Oh well.
    Again great article!

  20. Alan Halcon March 19, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    There is a level of being at odds between biologists and LNT. See, there are a lot of invasive species which biologists and others would like to get rid of—Arundo donax, Brassica, Castor Bean, etc… Etc. The philosophy of LNT would have you leave them in place while other government agencies are spending millions in getting rid of it.

  21. dave@mahikan.ca'
    Dave Holder March 20, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    A comment by Alan Halcon drew me to revisit this excellent article written by a man of obvious intellect and experience honed in the bush.
    I address some of the comments where people are overly concerned about areas deforested by campers. In most cases I am considering forests within my Northern area of Alberta and the peripheral margins, foothills, of the Canadian Rockies, and front ranges.
    A few weeks ago I was in deep conversation with a Professor from the U of Calgary who is an expert in Forest Fires and has deep theories on how we should rethink our policies of forest management. His comments answered many of the questions I had where the seeds of doubt towards “Leave no Trace” had been planted some time ago by Mors Kochanski , essentially if he was to a leave comment on this blog it would wholly support the article written by Christian Noble.
    Its important to think out of the box a little and be careful not to get drawn into the trend that we should save every tree on earth, and that all trees are good trees. There is no doubt that we humans need to curb our insatiable approach to destroy mother nature for our own good, but a balance has to be drawn. I beleive with careful education we can balance our woods-master approach to camping and fires, and even benefit the land we move through while preserving other areas, which we draw selfishly draw resources from to conserve our beautiful home!
    If you look at photos of the early trappers, pioneers, and explorers in my area of the Rockies you can quite often pick out the fact that forests behind them have way fewer trees than there are now. Indeed now in many areas the forests are choking the natural cycle of the eco system to death. Consequently several tree borne diseases are sweeping through our forests.
    The First Nations in this area had a historical approach to forest management with fire realizing that certain plants will only reproduce with exposure to fire, to help the germination process. You can still trace their ancient routes of travel as in certain areas there are a series of locations that a long time ago were set ablaze on a regular basis. These areas are fruitfully abundant with a diverse range of local vegetation that draws the wildlife in and creates a healthy animal, that of course long ago was then in turn hunted by the First Nation tribes. It did take the scientists some time to work out how these oasis of vegetation appeared, but after questioning local Aboriginal elders they heard stories that recounted the location of the areas the biologists were investigating. They also discovered that each location was on average one days ride from the next.

    As I look across the valley where I live there is smoke rising from another “prescribed burn” the park authorities have set to both thin out our dense forest, and burn out the scavenging pine beetle.
    Two areas where I camped a lot in our National parks had various warning signs posted exclaiming that it is illegal to collect dead fall branches from the forest for camp fires. A few years ago the Parks came in and burned that very large area to the ground using its “prescribed fire policy” to improve the biodiversity of the area.
    Another area close to me managed by the Parks is causing grave concern to the Parks, they have not had a forest fire there for over a hundred years. In fact they are filming Leonardo De-Caprio’s latest film on the life of an early trapper in that area right now. The forest is actually quite hard to walk through as the branches on the spruce touch and intertwine with each other. One parks representative said to me that secretly they would like to burn the whole lot but there are some scattered properties at risk, and the affects to tourism would cause a public outcry of despair if they went ahead with a burn. So instead they are closing and restricting camping and posting more signs to restrict the cutting of tree’s and gathering of deadfall.

    A few years ago I was teaching a recent guide course for the staff of a World Heritage site in our National Parks the participants were all scholars within the world of paleontology, geology and paleobiology all skills required to interpret the World Heritage site where they worked. I was just giving them the legally required guiding skills to complement there skills. The few days I spent with them was a wondrous event as they traded so much knowledge to me on all of their skills, one of them was a Professor studying the tracks of camels in Canada and tying their demise into early climate change. Another was studying ancient climate change and the present recession of the glaciers in the Rockies, on one of these receding glaciers he has discovered an ancient forest that was shrouded in ice for several thousand years. Proof these glaciers come and go!
    Another spoke to me of our present problem with the pine beetle saying how they can prove this blight has happened before he said that, “really its not a problem for nature which in the greater scheme of life soon recovers from the infestation, but rather its a problem for humans who cant cope with the fact that their beautiful green forest has gone in their lifetime. They need not worry though it will come back, one day!”
    The last Professor spoke to me of his current theories backed up with reams of research that he later showed me that we are heading towards an ice age, what was interesting was that so many of the people there nodded there heads in agreement.
    I mention all of these points to create a space where we can think at a higher level using our peripheral vision to perceive in a greater manner where exactly we lie as humans, and our interaction within this vast ancient historic landscape, that we live in. Hopefully that will stop our knee jerk reaction to any new ideas presented by others that may challenge our philosophies that although coming from an area of good intention, and seemingly perfect, may in fact in the long run be killing what we love.

    • Christian Noble March 20, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

      Dave, great comment. Alan, thanks for bringing up the discussion happening here on the site.

      I spoke with Mors early last week about LNT and sent him my article, of which he is in complete agreement as you surmized from knowing him so well Dave.

      For those who don’t know of Mors Kochanski, he is a scholar of Wilderness Living Skills and one of the foremost authorities on modern wilderness survival in the world with over 40 years of experience, and when I say experience, that is in the field and as a researcher. As Dave eluded to, he is a consultant of the upcoming DiCaprio movie on Hugh Glass, The Revenant. That’s for another story though…

      I just read this article yesterday on the bark beetle decimation out west Dave mentioned so readers will have even more context. Sharing this article for the beetle and forest information, not the politics which is also included. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/03/bark-pine-beetles-climate-change-diana-six

      Dave – again, great comment, appreciate you sharing!

      • dave@mahikan.ca'
        Dave Holder March 20, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

        My Pleasure mate keep up the good work.
        Oh and please excuse all my typing errors above!! I was trying to multi-task something my wife said I should not do!

        Cheers,

        Dave

  22. Alan Halcon March 20, 2015 at 3:14 pm #

    Speaking of what our Native ancestors did, “Tending the Wild”, by KAT ANDERSON, touches exactly on this

    http://books.google.com/books/about/Tending_the_Wild.html?id=WM–vVFtnvkC

    • dave@mahikan.ca'
      Dave Holder March 20, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

      Thanks Alan I will check it out for sure.

  23. bushcraft.cebu@gmail.com'
    Warrior Pilgrimage March 24, 2015 at 9:56 pm #

    LNT was adopted by park managers in the US to protect public park resources from being indiscriminately used for recreation purposes only. That may be okay since the advent of survival TV, everybody wants to be Bear Grylls, and all species would have gone to extinction in a very short time. Look at England, large public and private lands are now off-limits to indiscriminate cutting of trees and hunting. Remember that in temperate zones there is more or less 180 days of full sunshine. LNT cannot be forced in a tropical setting though since it has a complete year of sunshine. What took grass 6 months to grow in temperate zones after being trampled upon, takes only 3-5 days in wet season and 7-15 days in summer to grow back here. Still, it would be worthwhile that people know LNT despite it as a guidance.

    I do not subscribe to LNT but I believe it should be taught to uneducated people. It works better if you read the whole literature so you will understand the spirit by which it was established. That way, you keep a balance of everything. You disregard which does not apply and implement actions which you think are applicable. It depends upon the individual. However, there are very zealous individuals here in the Philippines who interpret LNT verbatim and act like “sharia police”, they even make it as a rule – a prerequisite – in your membership to a club and you are judged by your ability to follow it by heart. B.S. Not all are stupid though.

  24. A@a.com'
    Anon April 1, 2015 at 3:33 am #

    I agree with many of your points if we agree that there are certain areas, like Little Yosemite Valley that require extreme preservation and cater to large crowds, despite being in top of a large hike up. I’ve spent a lot of time in Idaho, where you can essentially still experience the ‘real outdoors’.

    Currently living in Silicon Valley, I’m far more concerned by the nanny state and park rangers who religiously enforce not being in the parks after dark. Or parking anywhere nearby, even 2 minutes after the sun goes down.

    Oh my gosh, you might stub your toe if it is dark!!! I’m from the government and I can’t let you stub your toe! It is more important that you pay a huge ticket than that you enjoy the wilderness!

    The issues you address above come after, in my opinion, addressing the extreme coddling of people in the outdoors in places like CA.

    This post dedicated to everyone who has stubbed a toe 15 minutes after the sun has gone down and the ‘rangers’ who tried to help.

    • seanenglish85@gmail.com'
      twobears April 9, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

      The most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help”. – Ronald Reagan

  25. A@a.com'
    Anon April 1, 2015 at 3:45 am #

    (Same anon as above) Have you heard about trail sanitization? Oh, my goodness, if a trail isn’t a constant 36 inches wide and having a slope of less than 15 degrees then someone might stub their toes! Or even worse, I suppose it is possible in an extreme situation – though I’m not sure something this serious would actually happen – that they might actually really fall over and hurt their hands!!!

    El Corte De Madera Creek park (both Redwood and chaparral ecosystems) is one of the most beautiful places on earth if you ask me. They’ve sanitized many trails there and recently razed one of the main trails that goes top to bottom so that it is essentially paved with some sort of ground up and levelled small gravel.

    Thank goodness the rangers are there to take the wilderness away from us. Who knows how many digits we might stub if left to our own devices out there and deal with nature on its own terms!

    So I guess one principle I believe in is ‘Let nature be nature’. I’m all for adding wheelchair accessible trails near the trailhead and and having a few beginner-appropriate trails, but if there is a great trail and it is off-camber, or tight here and there please just let it be what it is.

    If the rangers really want to help, they should spend more time removing poison oak and limit their other activities. (Yes, I realize the irony, that wouldn’t be letting nature be nature. 🙂 But I think we can all agree poison oak pushing out into trails is not fun.)

  26. A@a.com'
    Anon April 1, 2015 at 4:11 am #

    Just realized as we all aren’t in the same room and don’t know eachother people won’t understand my park rangers comments. In my opinion the purpose of a park ranger is to help mediate the relationship of nature and man by improving that relationship through a variety of ways such as discussion, leading a trip or building nature centers for example. Anyone who adds value to the nature experience is awesome, ranger or otherwise. Anyone who detracts from it or outright prevents it, or who dummies it down so far that you might as well be in Disneyland or someone who is hurting this goal, not helping.

    Fundamentally different relationship between hikers, campers and bikers and the Rangers in Idaho vs Silicon Valley. In Idaho they are generally knowledgeable and great people who love the wilderness. Around here – taking your leave no trace comments a bit further – but this is real – I think in a lot of cases they’d like nothing better than for no one to be in the wilderness at all. This is actually a somewhat common part of slightly extreme environmentalists today. Except then they’d get less income for tickets. Maybe to maintain revenue they could give out tickets for looking at the forest after dark if you are driving by it in the twilight hours?

  27. seanenglish85@gmail.com'
    twobears April 9, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    Thank you for this great article. I think I have gained just as much from the comments as from the the body of said work. I too am a life long Scouter and it does my heart good to read the comments of so many kindred folks.

    IMHO, I think what sums it all up (at least for me) is the nagging of the P.C. crowd who try to say their way is the only way. Furthermore, if you don’t subscribe to their doctrine, you’re nothing more than a monster with an axe and a Bic lighter tromping through THEIR pristine landscape.

    I enjoy backpacking as well as car camping. I practice LNT (when necessary) as well as making camp as an 18th century ranger/scout (when reenacting). The materials may be different, but my kit is oddly similar. Bushcraft/woodlore is a sort of a bridge between the two for me. I can sleep in a nylon hammock wrapped in my 4 point wool blanket, travel lighter and focus more on the experience. It’s those trips I feel most connected to my surroundings.

    I guess what I like to say is just because we may do certain activities in the outdoors or camp in a certain style does not make us unethical. When geocaching we say “cache in, trash out”, in the Scouts it’s always been “leave an area as good as or better than you found it” and while rafting or backpacking it’s “pack it in, pack it out”. What it means to me is “what do I feel is ethically responsible?” and I believe it is up to each of us to determine that for ourselves. To be accountable for our own lives. Aren’t we all going out there to test to some degree our own sense of self reliance?

    • twistokane@gmail.com'
      Twistokane October 5, 2015 at 11:40 am #

      Two Bears I agree. I myself am a Hybrid of Naturalist and LNT. I do carry some lightweight items and i actually do use a solo stove. But i also sleep in debris huts with a dakota fire hole to warm it. As you said Every man and woman is accountable for their own actions. They also have the ability to be who they want and what they want. It is not for me to decide what is right for them and it is not for them to decide what is right for me. It should always be that way to each their own without hindering or taking from others. In other words do what you will as long as your not fu**ing with anyone else’s sh**.or Fu**ing it up for the rest of us. Sorry that is the best way for me to put it without the PC BS.

  28. ghedge1967@gmail.com'
    George Hedgepeth March 10, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

    Pretty much a perfect article on this situation.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Cutting to the Chase When Choosing an Ax for Self-Reliance | Survival Sherpa - March 8, 2015

    […] [See Christian Noble’s thought-provoking article on how Leave No Trace Killed Woodcraft… almost] […]

  2. Cutting to the Chase When Choosing an Ax for Self-Reliance | From the Trenches World Report - March 12, 2015

    […] [See Christian Noble’s thought-provoking article on how Leave No Trace Killed Woodcraft… almost] […]

  3. Dirttime » Leave No Trace Killed Woodcraft… Almost! - March 16, 2015

    […] For the rest of the article visit http://masterwoodsman.com/2015/leave-no-trace/ […]

  4. » Leave No Trace killed Woodcraft… almostAndy Arthur.org - March 17, 2015

    […] Leave No Trace killed Woodcraft… almost […]

  5. Let Kids Run Wild In The Woods... - - May 30, 2015

    […] you haven’t read the Master Woodsman article Leave No Trace Killed Woodcraft… almost, I strongly suggest you not only check the article out, but also the comments section, as the […]

  6. Mors article at Outdoor Readiness - - January 25, 2016

    […] an aside, here is a different perspective on Leave No Trace from what is linked in the suggested […]

  7. Leave No Trace Camping; The Harmful Side Effects - Soft Tracks - October 2, 2017

    […] across a great article from masterwoodsman.com about Leave No Trace camping. The article is titled “Leave No Trace Killed Woodcraft…Almost” and can be accessed through the link. It is certainly worth the time to read if you have a few […]

Leave a Reply