Leave No Trace to protect outdoor spaces

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COLORADO – An unusually high volume of trash, pet waste, and irresponsible recreation across state parks this summer have led to a new partnership. Colorado Parks and Wildlife just announced they’re teaming up with the organization Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

This follows Colorado State Parks seeing a 30 to 50% uptick in visitors this summer during COVID-19. The rise in visitors came with more trash, litter, pet waste left on trails, and people leaving their trace.

“We’re seeing impacts to wildlife, vegetation and water quality. We’re seeing a variety of things that could be avoided or minimized,” said Ben Lawhon, Leave No Trace Director of Education and Research.

The non-profit, Leave No Trace, educates and encourages people on protecting the outdoors.

The Leave No Trace Seven Principles reveal conservation starts small, and every individual can take proactive steps to reduce their impact on natural resources.  

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

“Leave No Trace is a framework for making good decisions about enjoying the outdoors responsibly. It’s not about perfection. It’s about action,” Lawhon explained.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is taking action at their 42 state parks and 350 wildlife areas. 

The CPW – Leave No Trace partnership includes formal staff training, signs throughout the parks, and community outreach events. The goal is to teach the community how our actions affect wildlife, water sources, and everything outdoors.

“Wildlife is being affected by the influx in people, the influx of human food and human trash. And then this idea of leave what you find is truly important in terms of ensuring we’re leaving the outdoors as good or better than we found it for those that come after us. But we’re also minimizing the chance of the spread of invasive species,” said Lawhon.

This new partnership is paving the way to protect Colorado’s outdoor paradise. Colorado is home to 22 million acres of public lands and more than 960 species of wildlife. 

“Because Colorado offers so many diverse landscapes and wildlife wonders to witness; Coloradans pride themselves on their outdoor lifestyle,” CPW’s Assistant Director for Information and Education Lauren Truitt said. “But with endless outdoor opportunities to enjoy comes a responsibility to educate ourselves about the impacts of our outdoor recreation. This partnership is a wonderful opportunity to work with an organization that shares our passion for the great outdoors, and advances our agency’s mission to motivate people to do their part to care for our public lands and conserve them for future generations.” 

There are two Colorado parks that have gold standard status for their Leave No Trace practices. Roxborough and Castlewood Canyon State Parks. CPW has a goal to have nine other parks achieve that within the next two years.

“Our work is cut out for us in terms of welcoming these people to the outdoors and making sure they’re equipped and informed about best practices to enjoy the outdoors in a responsible way,” said Lawhon.

CPW is the first state agency in the U.S. that oversees parks, fish, and wildlife to partner with Leave No Trace and advocate for both public land and wildlife conservation. CPW shares the same goal with Leave No Trace – to inspire people to connect with the great outdoors while helping them understand how to balance outdoor recreation with mindful conservation. This new partnership demonstrates the commitment of both entities to work together towards a mutually beneficial stewardship education strategy for CPW-managed properties. 

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