Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) recently signed a partnership agreement with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to help educate people on how to recreate responsibly to conserve Colorado’s natural resources. CPW is the first state agency in the U.S. that oversees parks, fish and wildlife to partner with Leave No Trace and advocate for both public land and wildlife conservation.
CPW shares the same goal with Leave No Trace – to inspire people to connect with the great outdoors while helping them understand how to balance outdoor recreation with mindful conservation. This new partnership demonstrates the commitment of both entities to work together towards a mutually beneficial stewardship education strategy for CPW-managed properties.
Colorado is home to 22 million acres of public lands and more than 960 species of wildlife.
“Because Colorado offers so many diverse landscapes and wildlife wonders to witness; Coloradans pride themselves on their outdoor lifestyle,” said Lauren Truitt, CPW’s assistant director for information and education. “But with endless outdoor opportunities to enjoy comes a responsibility to educate ourselves about the impacts of our outdoor recreation. This partnership is a wonderful opportunity to work with an organization that shares our passion for the great outdoors, and advances our agency’s mission to motivate people to do their part to care for our public lands clean and conserve them for future generations.”
How to Leave No Trace
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles reveal conservation starts small, and every individual can take proactive steps to reduce their impact on natural resources.
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Putting the Principles into Practice
CPW has promoted the Leave No Trace Seven Principles for decades while teaching people that conservation is the foundation of outdoor recreation and our economy. Some examples of educational support efforts include:
- CPW’s Roxborough State Park and Castlewood Canyon State Park have earned Gold Standard Site designations by The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, meaning these parks have been distinguished in their promotion of Leave No Trace ethics. There are only 12 Gold Standard Sites in the country, so being recognized is a notable achievement. Other Colorado state parks pursuing Gold Standard Site designations include Eleven Mile State Park, Barr Lake State Park and Staunton State Park.
- Incorporate Leave No Trace messaging in park visitor materials.
- Joined the Care for Colorado Coalition to help educate Coloradans to serve as active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources.
- Launched a statewide #CareForColorado educational campaign to promote Care for Colorado – Leave No Trace principles to address increased park visitation and trash.
- Insert Leave No Trace materials in the Check Out State Parks Program adventure backpacks offered at more than 300 Colorado public libraries.
Although CPW has built Leave No Trace messaging into many programs, the newly formalized partner agreement will authorize Leave No Trace principles to be promoted at all CPW-managed properties- which includes 42 state parks and 350 state wildlife areas. Additional partnership opportunities will include formal staff training, signage throughout trailheads and campgrounds, and interpretative events like ranger talks and trail outings for visitors.
Why Leave No Trace
While we have long known that Coloradans live life outside, the pandemic has brought to the forefront how essential it is for people to spend time outdoors. This partnership comes at an opportune time as Colorado state parks continue to see a 30-50% increase in visitation compared to previous years. This has resulted in a corresponding increase in trash volume and irresponsible recreation by both seasoned outdoor recreationists and people new to outdoor activities.
“Through additional educational opportunities and avenues, we want to raise awareness that all Coloradans and visitors alike can make a positive contribution to the conservation of our natural resources,” said Truitt. “Whether you hunt, fish, hike, rock climb, bike, boat or watch wildlife, all outdoor activities impact the places we play. We have an obligation to our lands, waters and wildlife to recreate responsibly.”
Examples of responsible recreation include respecting seasonal trail closures, not walking on or damaging vegetation, disposing of trash and personal waste, refrain from picking flowers or stacking rocks, properly distinguishing campfires, not touching or feeding wildlife, and following trail etiquette to respect others.
“We can achieve more together than alone,” said Ben Lawhon, director of education and research at Leave No Trace. Our goal is to encourage people to make a conscious effort to protect our outdoor spaces. This partnership is an opportunity to work with a state agency that has an extensive outdoor community. Together, we can educate people about how small acts of conservation can make a big difference in protecting our environment.”
For more information on Colorado Parks and Wildlife conservation programs, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website. To learn more about Leave No Trace resources and research, visit lnt.org. To test your current outdoor knowledge, take the free online Leave No Trace Awareness Course.
Written by Bridget Kochel. Bridget is a public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife .