Leave No Trace Principles for Kids (like Cub Scouts):

  1. Know Before You Go
  2. Choose The Right Path
  3. Trash Your Trash
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Be Careful With Fire
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Kind To Other Visitors

Last year about this time, I took a course about the seven Leave No Trace principles. I was looking for program materials for Cub Scout-aged kids because in each of the new Cub Scout Rank Requirements there is something about the Outdoor Code or Leave No Trace.

You can read the rest of my article here, but it was this comment by Paul Lillywhite that I want to share with you:

I feel strongly about teaching Leave No Trace principles through Scouting. I am sharing something I wrote about it.
clean-campRecently while visiting with a friend he told me about a campout he and his wife went on. Just as they arrived a Scout troop was departing. As soon as all of their equipment was loaded up the boys were lined up, there were about 14 young men, and they walked the entire camp picking up everything that was not natural. All the trash was put into a large trash bag for a dumpster at home.

He told me, “The entire camp was completely clean. That is just what should be taught to young men.” I felt like my buttons would pop after all the years I’ve spent trying to teach this very thing.

Such a great example of a leader teaching the right way and Scouts responding. I makes we want my buttons to pop too. But his story goes on with a less favorable ending:

filthy-campersThis was a huge contrast to a camp out my wife and I went on just a few weeks ago. As we arrived at one of our favorite campsites we were shocked at the condition of the area. The next hour or so was spent digging beer bottles, beer cans, discarded equipment, food containers, cigarette butts, and other trash out the fire pit. All around the area there were more discarded cigarette butts, candy wrappers, beer bottle tops, and other trash. This must have been a deer hunter’s camp because there was the skeleton of a small deer, possibly a fawn killed for camp meat, and there were also a couple of deer hides and two piles of deer guts. The whole camp site was an awful mess.

Two weeks later we were able to go camping again. This time we went to a wonderful spot where there is a small grove of Ponderosa pine trees in a sea of Piñon pine and Juniper trees. This beautiful grove of majestic Ponderosas is located in a very interesting geologic formation with a small, refreshing stream. It is a wonderfully quiet and renewing retreat that we have enjoyed for many years. As we pulled up to our favorite campsite we found that someone had built a dam across the stream which had flooded that spot. We went to our second favorite site, where we had a wonderful night.

The next morning we went for a hike down by the main section of the Ponderosa grove. There we found another mess. There werescout-shelter-small-feature the stumps of several Ponderosa pine trees, cut about 3 feet from the ground with small hatchets, many pieces of wood lashed together with a fluorescent binder twine, along with a long strand of twine left on the ground, a large amount of candy and gum wrappers, and the cladding of the shelter; a small mountain of cut willows.

The shelter was skillfully made from 15 freshly cut Ponderosa poles about 12 feet long. Then the willows had been worked into them. As we looked around we noticed several lashings done with the fluorescent green binder twine, complete with nicely tied clove hitches, double half hitches, and even a well tied timber hitch. One of the saddest things was the cut trees. One was over 10 inches in diameter, possibly over 100 years old. As I looked at all of this mess, I thought, “This must have been done by a Scout troop.” And I hoped that I was wrong, but he wilderness survival shelter, the binder twine, and the well-tied lashings all spoke of a taught Scout troop.

There was no policing of the area as shown by the candy and gum wrappers and other litter. My objection to the shelter was that it should have been dismantled after its’ use, but the bigger problem was the cutting of so many live trees. It was especially sad since there are so few Ponderosa trees in this area and this cutting destroyed such a large percentage of new growth of the struggling Ponderosas.
There will be no wilderness to survive in if we destroy it. How can practice wilderness survival by destroying the trees in the forest we want to survive in?
The experience my friend told me about is the perfect example of leaders teaching boys important values of the Scouting program: Leave No Trace, courtesy, cleanliness and reverence. Teaching outdoor skills is important, but it is imperative that we instill the values behind them.

Paul is correct. This is a new century of Scouting and it is time that we all recognize our role as stewards of the planet—a Scout leader can make all the difference, I know that mine did.

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Darryl Alder
Darryl is a retired career Scouter with more than 30 years of service. However, his pride in Scouting, is his volunteer service as an Associate Advisor, Varsity Scout Coach, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Representative and Commissioner.

One comment

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    Alison says:

    Well well said. I believe we are called to be keepers and tillers of the earth and the principle of Leave no trace resonates deeply with me. The examples here will be used to help instill that desire with my family and the scouts group I am with. Thank you for sharing.

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