Why “Leaving No Trace” means caring for our PA Wilds
As you’re enjoying the Pennsylvania Wilds region, whether you live here or are traveling through the area, you’ll notice the vast amount of public lands and green spaces that make it so… well, wild!
The PA Wilds encompasses over 2 million acres of public lands, which are protected and set aside for residents and visitors to enjoy. That’s more than Yellowstone National Park! The region boasts 29 state parks, eight state forests, and is home to the Commonwealth’s only national forest: the Allegheny National Forest. We also have two wild and scenic rivers, one of the largest wild elk herds in the northeast and internationally certified dark night skies.
It can be easy to take all of this land for granted, but caring for our PA Wilds is an easy way that we can ensure that we (and other people around us) have a positive experience while also preserving these wild areas. Leave No Trace educates people how recreate in ways that lead to fewer damages to our outdoor spaces.
Leave No Trace is known for their Leave No Trace 7 Principles, simple and effective guidelines for enjoying outdoor activities in a way that allow the natural world to be enjoyed for years to come.
The Leave No Trace 7 Principles
There are 7 core principles of the Leave No Trace philosphy:
Why is it important?
Leave No Trace principles are not rules or laws. Although many public and private spaces might have rules and regulations that echo the same guidelines, the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace go a bit farther. These guidelines focus on helping people who are exploring the rural region do so more safely and with fewer environmental impacts.
So if it’s not a law, why should we care?
Let’s talk about why it’s so important to use Leave No Trace principles when traveling through the PA Wilds (and any other outdoor spaces you might visit).
Respecting what we have
The rolling hills of Pennsylvania are breathtaking, allowing us to peer down on meandering rivers and lush green forests. Wildlife of all varieties – from elk and deer to birds and squirrels – call this area their home, giving us the chance to gaze at their wild nature. People call the PA Wilds home too, with historical monuments and artifacts throughout the landscape. Parks, forests, river and trails mean that there is always somewhere to explore. And there is so much space! With about a quarter of the land of Pennsylvania being in the PA Wilds but only 4 percent of the population living here, there is room to wander and enjoy.
We are truly blessed to have all of this natural beauty at our disposal. Respecting what we have means taking care of it, honoring its wild nature and leaving it for others to enjoy. When we appreciate what we have, it’s easy to want to care for it and respect it.
Connecting with nature
Leave No Trace research shows that people form lasting connections with nature when they understand how to protect it. The PA Wilds Leave No Trace Initiative ensures both visitors and residents are equipped with environmental and sustainability information and skills to use when enjoying these iconic natural landscapes in the PA Wilds.
We each play a role in our environment, and being mindful of that role can make us feel closer to the natural world.
The more we interact with our natural landscapes, the more connected we feel with them. There is a sense of pride and connection when you appreciate, explore and care for these public lands. You might start to feel more strongly about wanting to preserve these wonderful areas for others. You also might feel a better sense of harmony, knowing that each piece of natural plays a delicate and vital role in our world.
Keeping it enjoyable for everyone
Consider this: Why do you camp, hike, hunt, kayak, bike or otherwise enjoy the outdoors? Chances are that you believe it’s a special and beautiful place! You might enjoy the peace it brings you, the freedom and joy you feel, the sense of exploration and the connection with the natural world.
Just like you might be excited to share your favorite TV show or book with friends, you would probably be excited to know that other people enjoy the PA Wilds just as must as you do!
Maintaining these natural places means that other people get to enjoy them, just like we are able to. Just like other people have cared for these lands before us, it’s also our job to make sure that natural assets throughout the PA Wilds continue to be a source of pleasure and relaxation for others.
Think about what makes the outdoors enjoyable for you… clean spaces without trash, beautiful vistas, quiet areas where you can hear and see wildlife, and room to move around. Other people find those things enjoyable too! That means that you’ll want to be a kind neighbor, picking up your trash, leaving the natural areas untouched, allowing wildlife to remain wild and not causing more disturbance than necessary.
Sustaining for future generations
Taking it one step farther, we’re not just protecting these natural areas and keeping them enjoyable for others right now… we’re also sustaining them for future generations!
Think about your own children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friend’s children and young people who are growing up today. If we want future generations to have the same ability to explore and enjoy the beauty of the PA Wilds, we need to care for these lands now.
By taking small steps like camping on durable surfaces and walking on maintained trails, we make sure that the natural areas are preserved from being eroded and misused. Properly disposing of trash and pet waste means that the environment is less polluted by our refuse. Using fire carefully helps protect forests and fields from dangerous wildfires, which can wipe out entire green spaces and wildlife habitats. Respecting wildlife and allowing it to be wild helps those creature continue their own future generations too!
Protecting what makes us unique
The PA Wilds is a unique, incredible place! People come to this region to enjoy peace and quiet, green spaces, glimpses of wildlife, cultural history and a variety outdoor recreation.
Protecting our natural assets also means protecting the very things that sets the PA Wilds apart from other areas of the world.
The PA Wilds Leave No Trace Initiative
Want to learn more about the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace and how you can apply them while exploring the PA Wilds? Learn more about how you can be a good steward in the PA Wilds at our Leave No Trace page.
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