CMC Students Leave No Trace

Kayak Touring Leadership Sunset Colorado Mountain College Leadville Leave No Trace
Kayak Touring Leadership Sunset Colorado Mountain College Leadville Leave No Trace
Kayak Touring Leadership students enjoy a sunset over the San Juan Islands. PC: Marley Seifert/Dan Wylie

CMC students are trained in the 7 Leave No Trace principles

Colorado Mountain College Leadville truly values sustainability and stewardship in the outdoors. Professor Kent Clement, PhD even goes as far as to certify his Outdoor Recreation Leadership students as teachers in the 7 principles of Leave No Trace. Certified students are encouraged to teach others how to recreate responsibly in our well-loved public lands. “Loved to death” describes how wilderness areas are at risk for suffering from human impacts. By following these simple rules, we can mitigate and avoid this issue safely and responsibly.


Leave no trace plan ahead and prepare advice from colorado mountain college studentsPlan Ahead and Prepare

Do your research and know what to expect. Learn the area, what’s expected, and how to efficiently and responsibly travel in your chosen environment. In CMC Orientation courses like Mountain Orientation, students learn how to properly pack food and gear for a multi-day expedition prioritizing minimal weight and waste without sacrificing options.

CMC Pro-tip: Re-packaging food products, bringing bulk pantry-style options, and being mindful of food waste, students experience the wilderness without leaving heavy impacts.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Soil and plants can be incredibly fragile. Trampling these environments may spell certain death for current growth and future life. On CMC courses we don’t always have access to established trails, and often explore the wilderness while traversing on our own paths. We don’t walk in single-file lines, and  carefully avoid creating our own trails.

CMC Pro-tip: Bring two pairs of shoes on expeditions – hiking shoes and camping shoes. Smaller, lightweight camping shoes help protect our campsite environments from unnecessary damage when walking.

Kayak Touring Leadership 2018 colorado mountain college leadville. PC: Leah Elkins
Kayak Touring Leadership 2018. PC: Leah Elkins

Dispose of Waste Properly

Pack it in & pack it out. By being mindful of how much waste you pack in, it’s easier to take care of packing it out! In this day and age, it’s especially important to keep an eye on how much waste you’re responsible for and where it ends up. This is true for both in the backcountry and in the frontcountry. It’s not pleasant, but it is important to know how to properly dispose of human waste. In some areas, cat holes (dig a hole, fill it in) are acceptable. In other areas, you’re expected to pack out your waste. Do your research! In our field courses, we expect our students to be open to discussing waste disposal techniques.

CMC Pro-tip: Less is more. Avoid single-use items when possible. If you really prefer to bring baby wipes or other personal care products, bring a sealable trash receptacle to pack it out.


Leave What You Find

The wilderness is such a beautiful, dynamic place – full of gorgeous flowers, gems, feathers, bones and stones. Some of us are totally awe-struck with the treasures we find, but taking these things home with us isn’t an option. It not only robs someone else of the opportunity to see them but it also robs the environment of the chance to benefit from them. On CMC trips, we are expected to respect the honor code of not sneaking home a pocketful of quartz or picking rare flowers to press in our notebooks.

CMC Pro-tip: Photos and videos speak a lot louder and last a lot longer than a vase of wildflowers. And it’s a bit of a lost art to bring notebooks and jot down thoughts during trips but it’ll bring back more memories than a couple rocks or feathers you found.


Minimize Campfire Impacts

Rule #1: Never build your own fire ring. CMC Outdoor Studies professor Kent Clement, PhD drills into his students the negative aspects of building fire rings, including the probability of scarring the soil and preventing future life from growing. Using a pre-made fire ring is alright because the soil is likely already charred, though sometimes you’ll see plants growing inside rings that haven’t been used much. Kent instructs his students in various courses on how to build several types of LNT-approved fires.

CMC Pro-tip: If you have to build a fire, make it small. One LNT-approved method is to lay a tarp down, build a small mound of mineral soil on top, and start a small fire on the mineral soil. It’s easy to deconstruct and won’t scar the area.


Leave no trace respect wildlife advice from colorado mountain college studentsRespect Wildlife

This rule takes many different forms, but the basics are to be respectful to all animals and to keep wildlife wild. On the CMC Kayak Touring Leadership course, students are instructed to keep all food supplies secured inside their kayak hatches at night so the island raccoons don’t get into them. Over the years, irresponsible human activity on the San Juan Islands has socialized the raccoons and caused them to roam the campgrounds at night and search for human food. They’ll steal whatever they can get!

CMC Pro-tip: Be mindful not to do anything that will alter an animal’s behavior. If a deer is grazing, let it graze – instead of getting close enough for a picture, invest in binoculars or zoom lenses.


Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by someone else’s bad music while trying to enjoy the outdoors… Whether hiking, rock climbing, or camping be considerate of others. Be aware of your noise level, give others space on trails and campgrounds, and don’t leave your trash behind for someone else to pick up. Simple things that can be easily overlooked are the core values behind CMC’s expedition behavior. OUT courses even go so far as to incorporate expedition behavior and professionalism into their final grade.

CMC Pro-tip: Instead of playing music while recreating, actively listen to the sounds of nature. Teach yourself how to identity certain bird songs and other animals sounds. Be mindful of where the sounds are coming from and where those creatures might be. There’s a lot going on out there if you just listen for it!

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