Since the pandemic, there’s been a massive uptick in people recreating outdoors. However, due to the inexperience of those newer adventurers, there’s also been a huge disconnect in how we should respect the environment, wildlife and each other. Thus, this serves as a reminder of how we all should recreate responsibly.
We all are well aware that when COVID blasted though America, everything shut down.
For a few weeks, everyone except essential workers were forced to stay home.
However, people started heading outdoors due to boredom yet still practice social distancing.
They all bought campers and boats, bicycles and and hiking gear and hit the outdoors to social distance. Sounds like a great idea, right?
That’s about the time when the #recreateresponsibly campaign was started. Its’ intent is educate those unfamiliar with the outdoors to act respectfully.
The good thing the pandemic presented was it exposed people to the outdoors when normally, they wouldn’t have considered some of those outdoor activities.
However, on the flip side, a lot of people turned a blind eye to outdoor etiquette and respect for the outdoor environment. Is it because they didn’t know or simply didn’t have the tools to know?
Since, the recreate responsibly campaign actually became more than trying to stop the spread of the virus and keeping others safe.
Recreating responsibly also means making a positive impact on the environment.
But also, not inconveniencing or encroaching on the human principle of enjoying the outdoors.
However, people still don’t seem to get the message.
So, we took it on our own accord to help spread awareness of the recreate responsibly principle.
We broke it down to popular outdoor activities and how to be respectful and responsible yet enjoy your outdoor adventures.
Our hopes are for all of us to gently point out to violators, ‘they’re doing it wrong’.
Whether it’s camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, hunting or off-roading, rules and etiquette guidelines are put into place to protect the environment, wildlife and also each other.
Therefore, each of us has an obligation to follow those guidelines to ensure our future generations have access to recreate responsibly outdoors as well.
So, how does one recreate responsibly, you ask?
These simple guidelines help explain how we all should recreate responsibly on public or private lands, on the hiking trail or on the water.
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How to Recreate Responsibly Outdoors
Camping in the wild or at campgrounds is a fun way to leave the bustling city life behind and experience nature.
But, there are certain stipulations and some camping etiquette rules you should be aware of and practice responsibly.
Say you get to your favorite camping spot but find it’s occupied by other campers. What should you do? Join the party or find a different location?
The responsible thing to do is to find a different camping area. No one person owns any part of public land.
Therefore, be respectful and honor the first come first serve arrivals space and privacy.
Remember, they’re camping in the wild for the same reason you are.
And always pack in pack out! Follow the Leave No Trace principle, no matter where you camp.
Campfires are a huge contributor to wildland and forest fires. We all can do better to minimize or even eliminate human error and causes.
The very first thing you should do is to follow the fire bans of the area where you’re camping or recreating.
If you are allowed to have a campfire in the wild or even at a designated campground then don’t.
Also, always practice responsible campfire safety:
- Use existing fire rings.
- Don’t burn anything other than natural materials.
- Keep water, dirt or sand readily available.
- Clear any dry or volatile material that has the potential of lighting away from the fire pit.
- Keep children and pets a safe distance from the fire.
- Never leave fire unattended.
- Make certain the campfire is completely extinguished before going to bed or vacating your camping spot.
Hiking etiquette has seemingly become a thing of the past. New(er) hikers aren’t aware of the simple rules of hiking.
For example, who has right of way on the hiking trail? What should hikers do when encountering wildlife?
Or, what happens when the path ends?
The basics of hiking dictate staying on designated trails and respecting the land.
We all need to be proactive and teach our young hikers the importance of preserving the natural environment and wildlife habitats.
Also, give other hikers comfortable space and breathing room when encountering or passing on the trails.
Paddling on the water has a whole different set of dynamics because kayaking, canoeing and stand up paddle boarding typically does not subject to close proximity of others.
But, that does not mean paddling is or should be a free for all.
First, paddlers need to know where it’s appropriate to launch your boats or paddle boards and ramp etiquette.
And, they need to be patient and give each other room to launch or maneuver their watercraft.
Second, all vessel operators, whether in motorized or self-propelled boats, have the responsibility to practice safe navigation according to the Rules of the Road.
Even on the smallest of lakes or rivers, those same navigation and safety rules apply.
And third, even if you’re only going to paddle at a nearby small pond, take personal responsibility of leaving a float plan and being prepared for anything and everything that could go wrong on the water.
All of these concessions also apply to all boats; including fisherman, rafters and rowers, power and sail boats, jet skis and day cruisers.
The biggest culprits of cycling accidents or collisions with pedestrians or vehicles are many.
First, street bike riders and mountain bikers need to adhere to their own set of rules of the road.
It’s important to know and practice good bicycle safety and etiquette. That includes knowing which side of the road or bike trail to ride on.
And, what to do when you need to pass a pedestrian or other bicycle rider. Always keep in mind that we all share the road or trail.
But also, give each other the space and respect we all deserve to enjoy our bike rides.
Off-Roading and Adventure Riding
Before hitting the dirt trails, make sure you plan your trip out.
But also, make certain your off-roading vehicle is in compliance with the state authorities (registration and insurance).
Most states and counties require an OHV usage permit to off road.
Responsible off-road recreating should include:
Leaving an adventure plan with a loved one back home; including the location you’re going to be recreating with coordinates, what kind of equipment you have and your estimated time of return.
Making certain your equipment is in top notch running condition.
Plan your fuel. Have enough fuel and even extra since there are no gas stations on the trails.
Make sure you have the necessary tools for breakdowns or repairs.
While you’re off-roading:
It’s never okay to never leave the trail and enter property that has purple fence posts or no trespassing signs.
If the OHV trails permissibly take you through private land or property, respect the land and their land owners. If the property has a closed gate, always close the gate behind you so the ranch stock or farm animals don’t escape.
Be aware and alert of stock or wildlife during your adventure ride. Animals of all species are unpredictable and can pose danger if approached or threatened.
Pay attention to and adhere to all signage.
Always stay on public lands and trails designated for recreational use.
Visit your local U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Offices to pick up a Motor Vehicle Use Map showing which roads and trails are recreation accessible.
Fishing is a hugely popular outdoor activity anywhere there is water. It’s a great way to get outdoors to be by yourself.
But, there are a few levels of responsibility anglers should always practice.
First, to fish anywhere, one must procure the proper fishing license if the state you want to fish in requires one.
Make certain your fishing license holder is either on your person; pinned to your fishing vest or fishing hat or easily accessible in your tackle box.
Second, some bodies of water may have catch-and-release fishing.
The purpose of catch-and-release is to protect certain fish species so they can reproduce.
Over-fishing disrupts the balance of nature causing food sources to disappear which results in wildlife deprivation.
Stating the obvious, if anglers take all the fish, there will be none to fish for later.
Third, it’s very important to use the proper equipment and tackle as well as effective catch and release techniques. (info below sourced from NOAA Fisheries)
Aside from the importance of fishing responsibly, say you find someone in your favorite fishing hole. What do you do?
- The responsible act is to find another fishing spot but, keep a good distance from other anglers.
- It’s bad fishing etiquette to cast your line into another fisherman’s space.
And lastly, if you’re headed out to your favorite fishing hole, kayak or fishing boat, always leave your float plan with a loved one back home just in case you don’t make it home when you’re supposed to.
Though controversial, hunting is necessary for conservation, wildlife population management, prevention of spreading of disease, and a source of nutrition of the hunter and family.
But, whether you agree with the purpose of hunting or not, hunting has to be done responsibly and with respect:
- Natural resources
- Wildlife habitats
- Other hunters
- Local, State and Federal Fish & Wildlife Authorities
But also, honoring the 3 key aspects to ethical hunting (source Game Management Authority):
- Know and respect the game: understanding the deer and their habitat, and treat them fairly and with respect;
- Obey the law: laws and regulations have been introduced to ensure that hunting is conducted in a safe, responsible and sustainable manner; and
- Behave in the right manner: hunter behavior has a direct impact on public opinion; remember your actions may impact on the future of hunting.
- But most importantly, as Hunter Ed shares:
- “It is a hunter’s ethical responsibility to stop the hunt and search for any wounded animal.
- You should wait for at least a half-hour to an hour before trailing a deer, unless the downed deer is in sight.
- Make a practice of carefully observing every movement of a game animal after you shoot it.”
So, it’s very important to recreate responsibly while hunting to keep the balance of nature and respect the safety of others outdoors.
So, you’re on a hiking trail and all of a sudden, you come across wildlife. It could be a bison, a deer, or even a rattlesnake. Or, a bear wanders into your camp.
What do you do?
Do you chase it away? Throw rocks at it or beat it with your hiking stick? Or, should you just leave the animal alone?
As ambassadors of the outdoors, we take responsibility in reminding others that we share the land with the wildlife.
The best thing to do is keep your distance.
Appreciate and respect the wild in their natural habitat. Really, wild animals generally want to be left alone.
So, give them space. Many parks require you to stay a minimum distance of 25 yards from most wildlife.
For bears, big cats, bison, wolves and other predatory wildlife, you need to put at least 100 yards between you and the animal.
If you wish to see wildlife up close, invest in a decent set of binoculars.
PRO TIP: Camping in Bear Country? Safety Tips That Could Save Your Life
Leave No Trace
Recreating responsibly is also about the Leave No Trace principal.
No matter where you are or going and type of outdoor recreation, always take out what you bring in; also known as ‘pack in pack out’.
This includes any and all leftover food or remnants of food, bones, meats, even fruits and vegetables, food wrappers, all packaging, drink bottles or cans.
This also includes any equipment that is no longer of use to you such as fishing line, hunting rifle brass and shotgun shells, etc.
And always dispose of your trash in designated trash cans only.
But, never add to an already full or overflowing trash receptacle or place it on the ground.
Stacking trash on top has potential of falling and breaking open. This is not only dangerous to wildlife, but also disrespectful to the workers and volunteers who must clean up the mess.
So, be a responsible steward of the outdoor environment. Bag up and seal messy trash in compostable or biodegradable trash bags and dispose of them in designated trash receptacles properly.
And lastly, fire pits are NOT trash cans! It’s totally irresponsible to burn anything other than natural substances such as firewood, clean paper and fire starters.
That does not include burning coated paper plates, glass or plastic, bottles and cans, food or meat with bones, etc.
Taking Photos and Video
Part of recreating responsibly is to taking responsibility for the impact you may be putting on others.
Everyone’s a photographer or videographer now with their smartphones, GoPros and drones.
While you can still get amazing smartphone shots without impacting all of those around you, many are doing it the wrong way.
Irresponsible risk takers are vying to get that perfect Instagram shot-of-a-lifetime in hopes of gaining attention, views and likes.
Unfortunately, this puts not only themselves at risk, but also the environment, wildlife and even our First Responders.
We’re also seeing people inching to cliff edges that have potential of instantly breaking away.
This is not acceptable behavior, especially in our National Parks! They become a liability to the park and the first responders or rescuers.
All for what, a photo or video to make them famous?
And lastly, many people are leaving the trail. This causes damage to the vegetation and flora that is a viable part of the region’s ecosystem and affects wildlife habitats.
Be Kind, Inclusive and Respectful
No one person or group owns the outdoors whether it’s while camping, on the trails or enjoying the waterways.
We all need to be inclusive outdoors; regardless of what other outdoor lovers race, age, religion, marital and/or sexual status, etc.
This also extends to respecting each other’s personal space which includes socially distancing.
If you encounter others on the trails or while outdoors, step aside and have good manners by covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.
Wash your hands after using the restroom or use your pocket hand sanitizer after using a tissue.
Respect the abilities of others. After all, it may be their very first time hiking, paddling or camping. They may not know what trail etiquette is or may not be aware of the rules of camping.
How and what you project outwards can be long-lasting; positively or negatively.
Also, if you see something, say something.
Perhaps they are new to the environment or outdoor activity. They may not be privy to the same level of experience or information.
Most importantly, never tolerate rudeness and mockery to anyone in your group regarding race, age or disability.
Be a positive and active part of not only making the outdoors safe, but also welcoming and enjoyable.
We all play an equal part in sustaining the environment and nature in positive ways. In other words, be kind, be inclusive, be respectful.
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Your takeaway on how to recreate responsibly
Since the influx of so many people seeking the outdoors came a need to teach them how to recreate responsibly.
This type of need is to help conserve, preserve and protect America’s treasures. But also to harmonize with others sharing the outdoors with us.
The National Park Service says it best:
“Be an active part of making the outdoors safe and welcoming for all identities and abilities.
There is space for everyone and countless outdoor activities.
Be kind to all who use the outdoors and nature differently. Leave no trace.”
In other words, ‘do the right thing even when nobody is watching’.
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