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Leave No Trace Front Country Ethics

We are pleased to be a partner with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics This link leaves the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Web site. . Leave No Trace is not about rules and regulations. It's an education program that teaches outdoor enthusiasts how to protect the places they love. The principles of Leave No Trace originated from a need to protect backcountry and wilderness areas from human-caused recreational impacts. However, the application of Leave No Trace extends far beyond these areas. As more and more people are recreating in "front country" settings, knowledge of how to apply Leave No Trace becomes increasingly important.

The following guidelines are a focused set of recommendations based on the original Leave No Trace principles. Please practice these ethics when recreating in our great outdoors.

Know Before You Go

Notebook and oen, to plan a trip

Planning ahead is the easiest way to protect outdoor places and to enjoy a safe visit. Knowing site-specific regulations beforehand will help you protect the areas you visit. This Internet site can provide you with pre-trip information. Use a map, bring a small first aid kit, and remember to bring additional clothing to keep you warm and dry. Wear suitable shoes or boots for walking through puddles or choose trails that are not muddy. Always carry a leash for your pet. Carry plastic bags to pick up your pet's waste. The more you know and the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to protect the places you enjoy visiting.

Stick to Trails

People on a hiking trail

Staying on trails is a simple way to protect Montana state parks and fishing access sites. Shortcutting causes erosion and damages trailside plants, especially if it's wet or muddy. Remember, boots dry overnight but trails can take years to recover from erosion. When trailside vegetation is trampled, there is a greater chance weeds will replace native plants. If you must leave a trail, protect vegetation by stepping on rocks, gravel, or other nonvegetated surfaces. In most environments, native plants take years to recover from trampling damage. Avoid areas closed for revegetation or signed as sensitive. Also, some trails may pass through private land. Respect private property by staying on designated trails. Stick to trails.

Overnight Right

Campsite with tent

If camping overnight, stay in a designated site rather than creating your own. Be sure to choose a site big enough to accommodate your group so that you overnight right.

Trash Your Trash

Metal trash can

Trash is unsightly and ruins everyone's outdoor experience. Pick up all trash—yours and others. Dispose of biodegradable materials, such as orange peels, apple cores, and food scraps, in a trashcan. Scavengers attracted to trash and leftover food can harm native wildlife. Animals that become dependent on human food often have to be relocated or destroyed. Burning trash or leftover food is not recommended since these items can rarely be completely burned in a campfire. In some Montana state parks and most fishing access sites, "Pack it in, Pack it out." Protect the front country-trash all your trash.

Leave It As You Find It

Little girl picking flowers

If each of the 6 million people who visited Montana state parks and fishing access sites each year picked a flower or collected a rock or took home an arrowhead, then those who follow would not be able to enjoy them. By leaving the natural world as you find it, you are protecting the habitat of plants and animals as well as the outdoor experience of millions of visitors. So leave it as you find it.

Be Careful with Fire

Fire in a safe firering

For many, enjoying a campfire is an outdoor tradition. However, unnatural or out-of-control fires can be very destructive and cause long-lasting impacts. Consider cooking on a portable stove rather than a fire. If you plan to build a fire, first check to see if fires are allowed in the area you are visiting. If fires are allowed, always use an existing fire ring. Use charcoal for cooking or, if wood fires are allowed, gather only dead wood on the ground or consider bringing your own from home. Conserve wood by burning your campfire for a short period and allow plenty of time for the fire to burn down to ash. When finished with your fire, douse and stir with water to make sure it's completely out. Never leave a fire unattended, and remember to be careful with fire.

Keep Wildlife Wild

Cute bear cub

Montana state parks are home to a variety of wildlife. Observe wildlife from a distance; never feed them human food or leave food scraps behind. Animals that become reliant on human handouts lose the ability to find food on their own and can easily become malnourished. Many animals become used to human trail activity. Traveling off-trail may cause added stress to animals and damage habitat. Keep wildlife wild by staying on trails and not approaching, harassing, or feeding them.

Manage Your Dog

Man walking dog

Keeping your dog in control protects your pet, other park visitors and their pets, and local wildlife. Others may not appreciate your dog's company; always ask before allowing your dog to approach them. Be sure to check the posted regulations about area leash requirements. If a leash is required, use it. Respect private property by not allowing your dog to wander from designated trails or off-leash areas. Always manage your dog, for his sake and yours.

Pick up Poop

Man picking up after his dog

Pet waste can be a serious problem in recreation areas. With so many people recreating with their pets, the potential to impact the environment is great. Pet waste smells, can be a health hazard for people (particularly children) and other animals, and is not natural to any environment. Cleaning up after your pet helps protect water resources, plant life, and habitat for native animals. The solution is simple—clean up after your pet. Some Montana state parks supply bags that you can use to pick up your pet's waste. If these are not available, a plastic grocery or newspaper bag works. Bag your pet's waste and put it in the trash. This simple act keeps Montana FWP lands clean for all.

Share Our Trails

Kids on sidewalk, one on a trike, one running alongside

People enjoy Montana state parks and fishing access sites in different ways. When passing others on trails, slow down and be courteous—offer a friendly greeting. Bikers, because they often travel at higher speeds, have an extra responsibility to slow down and yield to slower-moving visitors. When yielding, the best practice is to stop, step off the trail on a durable surface (rock, sand, etc.,) and remain until others pass. In all situations, respect other visitors and share our trails.