Leave No Trace training
When our local Backcountry Horsemen of Alaska group nominated me to go to Nine Mile, Montana for four-day Master Leave No Trace training, I jumped at the opportunity. This training would better enable me to assist other BCHA members in preserving our front and backcountry areas.
This would also open the lines of communication with those in other user groups, hikers, bikers, and ATVers included. The Mat Su area (where I live) is one of the fastest-growing areas in the U.S. Consequently, trail-use access is becoming a primary concern.
Future work in this area would also be a much-needed form of breed promotion. Icelandics are well-suited for backcountry use. They consume less forage than their larger counterparts, and because of their size, have less of an impact on trails. Their calm dispositions also enables them to be used for service work, some of which includes trail clearing and preservation.
The focus of the Nine-Mile program Master Educator Program is on teaching people to teach others the Leave No Trace principles. And so, the twelve of us were required to give presentations to the other trainees. We were each assigned a mentor, who after, critiqued our presentations. This made us even more invested in the subject matter. So did three days of camping, which allowed us to put theory to practice.
The Leave No Trace movement is an educational program that teaches outdoor enthusiasts how to protect the places they love. The LNT principles originated out of a need to protect backcountry and wilderness areas from human-caused recreational impacts. A structured grassroots training program complements this objective. Those who take the Master Educator class are certified to teach three-day trainer courses. Certified trainers are then certified to teach awareness courses.
At the heart of the leave No Trace are seven principles for reducing the damage caused by outdoor activities, particularly non-motorized transportation. LNT principles can be applied anywhere and in any recreational endeavor. The horseperson’s creed is “When I ride out of the mountains, I’ll leave only hoof prints, take only photographs, and all the extra garbage I can take out!”
The LNT principles and practices extend common courtesy to and hospitality to other outdoor visitors and to their immediate and distant surroundings. They are based on an abiding respect for nature and people. This respect, coupled with good judgment, allows one to apply the principles in their own unique circumstances.
We as stock users have some of their our own LNT principle-related concerns. When trekking, the slowest animal determines the speed of the pack sting. Who are the followers, and who are the leaders are questions that should be asked in advance. It’s also important to get your animals used to highlines, pickets, and hobbles.
If you plan to pack in bear, especially grizzly country, obtain and understand safety and food regulations. Be aware of where bears live, eat, and travel. Food odors can attract hungry or curious bears nd other animals, so its important to store food properly. In some areas, this means using beat-proof boxes and panniers.
If you’re going on a lengthy ride, that is one that will require you to feed your horses en-route, take supplemental and weed-seed-free feed. Get your stock used to all new feed before you go. Find out in advance if certified weed-seed feed is required. You can also help prevent the spreading of noxious weeds by removing weeds and burrs from animals, tack, trailers, and trucks.
My experience at Nine Mile was life-changing because it took my teaching career, (which was previously centered around teaching writing) in a differing direction. I’ve since begun to work with those who are interested in promoting and putting leave no trace principles to practice.
The Center for Outdoor Ethics www.lnt.org is located in Boulder, CO. Their website contains more information on the LNT principles as well as contact, volunteer, and resource information.
The national offices of the Backcountry Horsemen
of America www.backcountryhorse.com
is located in Graham, WA. The BCHA is a nonprofit corporation that’s
dedicated to preservation of historic stock use in the backcountry commensurate
with our heritage. The BCHA is comprised of state, organizations, affiliates,
and at-large members. Their website contains volunteer, resource, and