Leave No Trace
Leave nothing but footprints.
Take nothing but photographs.
Kill nothing but time.
You won’t be camping overnight and you don’t need to carry all your belongings on the Rotary Aussie Peace Walk. But we hope you take the time to explore the Australian wilderness while you are here.
There is nothing peaceful and rewarding as. taking a stroll through nature. Let’s make sure we don’t accidentally destroy it.
We live in an incredibly ecologically rich, environmentally diverse part of the world. We can take part in almost the entire spectrum of adventurous activities travelling no great distances from our front doors.
However, whether we can survive in the wildernesses outside our front doors is no longer as important as whether the wildernesses can survive us.
We have to learn to understand, appreciate and conserve our natural environment if we are to continue doing the activities we love.
When bushwalking first became popular during the first decades of the last century, disposal of rubbish on walks was to ‘burn, bash and bury’.
This practice didn’t get updated till the 1960s when it was changed to ‘burn, bash and carry’.
The number of people taking part in outdoor recreational activities increased dramatically during the last decades of the twentieth century, which led to the adoption of “minimal impact” practices.
Then came the realisation that even these environmentally caring guidelines were no longer sufficient to protect our fragile ecosystems.
“We can survive the wilderness, but can the wilderness survive us?”
This century has now seen the adoption of the “Leave No Trace” philosophy. This is based on seven principles and they are:
- Plan ahead and prepare;
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces;
- Dispose of waste properly;
- Leave what you find;
- Minimise campfire impacts;
- Respect wildlife and;
- Be considerate of your hosts and other visitors.
When you do the Aussie Peace Walk, keep an eye out for these giant furry grasshoppers. It would be a very peculiar weekend if you don’t see a few keeping an eye on you!
Minimise campfire impacts.
Campfires impact upon the environment. They cause scarring of campsites and extensive damage and loss of wildlife when they escape becoming bushfires.
Plants such as coastal heath and alpine heath are killed by campfires and may take many years to regenerate. Dead and fallen timber provide habitat for small animals and insects essential to the ecology of the environment.
If the ground is made up of a deep layer of litter or peat, e.g. Kosciuszko alpine areas or Tasmanian wilderness, a fire can smoulder underground and cause extensive damage through wildfire escapes months after the campfire was extinguished. Fuel stoves are cleaner, faster, easier to use and safer than cooking fires.
But… There is nothing more peaceful than gazing into embers at the end of a day’s walking and campfires bring parties together to share stories and jokes about the day’s adventures so if you have one, use an existing fire scar and ensure your fire remains smaller than the scar so it doesn’t spread.
Plan and Prepare
‘Leave No Trace’ Planning
Consider your goals and those of your group. Prepare by gathering local information, communicating expectations, and gaining the technical skills, first aid knowledge, and equipment to make the trip a success.
Build Leave No Trace into your plans by picking an appropriate destination for your group and allowing plenty of time to travel and camp.
Be prepared to sit tight or turn back if you sense danger or sustain an injury. That way, you won’t have to abandon Leave No Trace techniques for the sake of safety. For instance, poor planning or disregard for weather conditions can transform an easy bushwalk into a risky encounter with extremes in temperatures.
Cold, wet or suffering from heat stress, it’s tempting to think the effects of cutting branches for shade or shelters are justifiable. Prevention by obtaining knowledge ahead of time is often an easier solution.
Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Bushwalking parties can cause extensive environmental damage in sensitive areas by their very presence unless they are on well-defined tracks (e.g. a fire trail) and use well-established campsites.
Always keep to the track. Cutting corners and detouring around puddles or mud increases the scarring and increases erosion.
Plan your meals to minimise waste
Carry In – Carry Out.
The greatest damage to the environment occurs through poor toilet, washing and hygiene practices.
Detergents, toothpaste and soap (even biodegradable types) can kill fish and other water life.
Unnaturally high and unbalanced animal populations result from bushwalkers food. Apple trees, orange trees, blackberry, rosehip and other exotic plants have been introduced into wilderness areas because the uneatable/indigestible parts have been buried or thrown away because ‘they are biodegradable’. Food scraps, food containers and packaging must be carried out.
Many of the lakes and streams of Kosciuszko National Park are infested with the Giardia parasite and there are very few streams, rivers or lakes in New South Wales or Victoria where the water can be safely drunk.
Unfortunately, using water filters or purification tablets is now standard practice.
Leave what you find. The beauty of our world is defined by what is in it, so it is vital that we leave things as we found them so others may enjoy the thrill of discovering them.
Respect wildlife. You are visiting their home, not yours. The wonder of wildlife encounters will live on long after the walk is completed and will inspire many tales but be very considerate of them. They all will react differently. Some animals flee from humans, abandoning their young or critical habitat.
Make no undue noise when walking or around camps. It disturbs the wildlife and the feeling of solitude other bushwalkers’ experience. Never crowd another party at campsites/lunch spots. Camp at least twenty metres away or find another campsite/lunch spot.
Be considerate of your hosts and other visitors. The rights of traditional landowners are paramount.
Outdoor ‘etiquette’ is a must if we are to enjoy our wildernesses. Your sense of freedom is not paramount to the detriment of others.
Do not touch or disturb any indigenous sites (rock paintings, Bora grounds, axe-grinding sites, etc.) or “European” sites (brumby traps, yards, water races, etc.).
Finally, the bush belongs to everyone and no one person or group can lay claim to any hut, water source or route. Respect the rights of others and extend them the same courtesy as you would have them extend to you.
by Peter Thomas
Scouting Leader Trainer
A passionate outdoorsman, Peter is a Leader Trainer and Bushwalking Instructor on the National Training Team of Scouts Australia.
An avid walker and writer, Peter scribes a travel blog that includes many of his favourite walks in the Australian wilderness and his various adventures upon the Camino trails.
Keep an eye out for Peter when you come to Canberra for the Rotary Aussie Peace Walk. He’ll be walking on the tracks with you.
You will find Peter’s blog at Lighten the Trip Fantastic.
‘Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photographs. Kill nothing but time.’
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