With just under 10,000 residents and over 3 million visitors per year, it is hard to preserve and protect the beauty of the Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest. Leave No Trace, an international nonprofit focused on using the power of science, education and stewardship to ensure a sustainable future for the outdoors, identified Sedona and the Oak Creek Corridor as an area suffering from heavy use and being “loved to death”.

Leave No Trace recently hosted a multi-day Hot Spot session with key constituents in the District – US Forest Service, Slide Rock State Park, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Friends of the Forest, and other local organizations – to provide stakeholders with resources, education materials, and communication techniques to mitigate human-related impacts. The underlying foundation are the Leave No Trace Seven Principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare. Set reasonable goals that match participant skills. Gain knowledge about the area. Choose equipment for safety, comfort and leave no trace qualities. Consider weather, terrain, regulations/restrictions, private land boundaries, and anticipated food consumption (leftovers create waste which leaves a trace!)
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. Stay on trails to reduce landscape damage. Stay within the width of the trail. Where possible, stay on rock, sand, gravel, snow and ice, as they are more durable. Choose a camping location considering the level and type of use in the area, the fragility of vegetation and soil, the likelihood of wildlife disturbance, an assessment of previous impacts, and the potential to cause or avoid impact.
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly. “Pack it in, pack it out” is a familiar mantra. Any user of recreation land has a responsibility to clean up before leaving. Inspect campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash and garbage. Properly dispose of human waste to avoid pollution of water sources, avoid the negative implications of someone else finding it, minimize the possibility of spreading disease and maximize the rate of decomposition. Toilet paper should either be thoroughly buried in a hole or placed in plastic bags and packed out.
  4. Leave What You Find. Leave rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest where found. Do not hammer nails into trees or carve into them.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts. It is important to check current local fire restrictions. If there are no restrictions, camp in areas where wood is abundant if building a fire. A true Leave No Trace fire shows no evidence of having been constructed. Scatter unused wood to keep the area as natural looking as possible. Ensure the fire and coals are fully extinguished before leaving. Pack out any campfire litter. Never burn plastic or foil-lined wrappers in campfire.
  6. Respect Wildlife. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a closer look. Observe wildlife from a distance. While some animals may not seem bothered by your presence, wildlife can be unpredictable. Human food can harm the health of wildlife, change their habits, and lead to further human-wildlife conflicts. To minimize these impacts, securely store food, trash and any other items with a scent out of the reach of animals.
  7. Be Considerate of Others. Excessive noise, uncontrolled pets and damaged surroundings take away from the natural appeal of the outdoors. Downhill hikers should step aside to allow uphill hikers to pass. In many places, hikers will yield to equestrians, and cyclists will yield to both hikers and equestrians. Stay in control when mountain biking, announce your presence before passing, and proceed with caution. Keep pets under control and pick up dog feces from camps and trails.

“The Red Rock Ranger District provides an incredible opportunity to interact with nature. It also presents an incredible challenge to not love it to death. That is so easy to do when we see only our actions – a couple initials scratched in the rock, litter dropped and not retrieved, stones stacked or wandering off trail through the cryptobiotic soil. We are unaware or lose sight that Sedona is often listed as second only to the Grand Canyon as an Arizona tourist destination,” said Dale Evans, Friends of Forest volunteer who participated in the Leave No Trace Hot Spot. Evans continued, “At the same time, the Red Rocks offer an incredible opportunity to respond to the challenge; and just like spoiling what we have, we can nurture it – one person at a time. As more and more people are made aware of what we have and how fragile it is, the way in which we use it becomes more self-evident.”

Please join us in Leaving No Trace and visit www.LNT.org for more information.

Want more information about volunteering or Friends of the Forest? Visit www.friendsoftheforestsedona.org.

Serving Sedona, written this week by Carol Dores, Friends of the Forest, appears Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News.