Outdoor Ethics

Outdoor Ethics - It's something many never think about. For many of us it is second nature. To pick up after ourselves, to pick up after others, to leave the land as good or better than when we got there. I do not profess to know everything and I am not here to judge you if you see things a bit different but I think it has become a common idea that we should work together to conserve our lands so that our grand children and their grand children will be able to experience the great outdoors as we have. Over Fathers Day weekend we spent time doing what I enjoy nearly as much as anything, we went camping. Not only that but through Facebook, we also met up with some people that enjoy the outdoors as much as we do. We all had a ton of fun at Alexander Springs State Park here in Florida. At 72 degrees the water was a welcome relief to the humid summer days.

While we had a lot of fun, I have to admit I witnessed a few things over the weekend that really disturbed me and I would like to touch on those things a little. First off littering is a punishable crime that should be enforced heavily at State parks like this. People wonder why the cost to camp is so high in campgrounds like this and that answer is easy. They have to hire more people to pick up after those that will not pick up after themselves. Every morning 1 or 2 guys would have to walk through the park and pick up trash tossed out by those the previous day. Even one of the camp hosts had stopped keeping their area clean, it was truly sad.

We all love to explore area trails and back roads and there are few things that can destroy our ability to explore like trash and trail destruction. Making a trail wider in order to get around an obstacle is not only lazy but is destructive to the habitat and it encourages others to do the same thing, after all if you did it, why can't they? If you cannot get through an obstacle without making a new trail maybe the best solution is to perform some trail maintenance instead. I will admit to having let myself get drawn into this behavior and it was the one tarnished moment of my weekend. While I doubt we did any serious harm, I would feel bad to go back next year and find that our tracks had contributed to more unethical behavior. Where one will go, many will follow. Far better not to exempt yourself from something with the notion that you will be the only one to do it.

Here is a short list of ways that you can be more responsible in the outdoors.

  1. Stay on designated trails and roads, never go around an obstacle that would alter the trail.
  2. Be aware of wildlife and habitat. Animals that associate food with people can become a nuisance that leads to their destruction.
  3. Leave areas you visit better than they were when you got there, pick up trash, not only yours but others if you come across it.
  4. Respect the outdoors and those who enjoy it. Not everyone has to agree with one another but there is such as thing as common courtesy. Keeping your noise to a minimum is less intrusive to the enjoyment of others in the outdoors, and that works both ways.

If you are in doubt over the correct way to handle a situation in the outdoors there are places to find the answers such as the local ranger station and Tread Lightly.org

Remember while ethics is largely a personal code of conduct, there are a few things to ask yourself before you go.

  • Can I live with my decision?
  • Who/what does this decision effect?
  • Am I stepping on another persons rights by doing this? Is there a better way? 
Conservation and Ethics go hand in hand. It is not a political party line. It is what we as outdoor enthusiasts live for. It's what we leave for tomorrow.