Tag Archives: Leave No Trace

Two Somber Anniversaries: Doce and Rodeo-Chediski Fires

Jag Fergus | Doce Fire

Jag Fergus | Doce Fire

Some somber news to report: Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Doce Fire, which burned more than 6,700 acres of the Prescott National Forest, and the 12-year anniversary of the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, which consumed 468,638 acres in Eastern Arizona. This summer, please follow the Leave No Trace Principles and share them with others. Let’s protect our forests and wilderness areas from fire.

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Filed under Et Cetera, Mother Nature, News

Wallow Fire: Three Years Later and Why Leave No Trace Matters

Photo by Kelly Kramer

Photo by Kelly Kramer

Three years ago today, two men — cousins Caleb and David Malboeuf — were camping in the Bear Wallow Wilderness when they walked away from their partially extinguished campfire. Their irresponsibility resulted in the Wallow Fire, which scorched 535,000 acres of forest. Arizonans continue to pay for their carelessness, and it’s a debt that will be passed to our children. Yes, we’ve seen signs of regrowth, but it’ll be another century before the area looks as it once did. It’s heartbreaking. But perhaps what’s even more upsetting is the fact that maybe, just maybe, the fire might not have happened at all had the Malboeufs understood and followed the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles.

And now another wildfire is burning. So far, the Slide Fire in Oak Creek Canyon has charred 20,369 acres. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning: it’s hot and bone-dry in places. And there is the very real possibility that another wildfire could eclipse Wallow. So, what can we do? Below, Arizona Leave No Trace advocate and master educator Cindy de Leon Reilly talks about Leave No Trace and why it’s time to pay attention to these seven principles.

What is Leave No Trace, and how did these principles come to be?
Our forests have always been used by people for recreation, to get out and enjoy them for various reasons. With this came various destructive behaviors in the outdoors. Some examples are leaving trash behind, feeding the animals, chopping trees down and playing with fire. We were literally killing our forests. In the 1960s, the U.S. Forest Service noticed these impacts. As recreationists and visitors, we rarely saw these effects.

The start of the Leave No Trace movement was in the 1980s, with the Forest Service and its “No Trace” program that focused on wilderness ethics and travel and camping practices.  In 1990s, the Forest Service partnered with the National Outdoor Leadership School to create a hands-on, science-based training to start educating others in outdoor skills, which reinforced the “No Trace” standards. Eventually, other outdoor for-profit and nonprofit organizations and federal land-management agencies joined the efforts and created an independent nonprofit organization called Leave No Trace Inc. and its principles.

Over the years, Leave No Trace Inc. evolved into the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. The original principles evolved to include an extra principle, giving us seven total. The seven principles are:

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

 This year, there have been 488 wildfires in Arizona; all but 20 or so were human caused. What is the general public missing when it comes to LNT?
Honestly, the general public does not really think about their impact when they are outdoors.  Its almost like it does not apply to them. There are two kinds of users, backcountry and frontcountry. Backcountry users, such as backpackers, are those who go to isolated areas that are not accessible by vehicles.  Most of these users are aware of the Leave No Trace principles. They learn about the principles through outdoor retailers like REI, or outdoor entities like this publication. Also, the principles are typically posted on public-land websites and at offices where one obtains recreation permits.

Frontcountry means those areas easily accessible by vehicles. These are areas such as campgrounds and nearby trails. Even though the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics partners with the Forest Service and other similar entities, and gets the word out through campsite postings and education, many outdoor frontcountry users do not read or care to practice these principles because they are only thinking about having fun. I have seen many frontcountry users ignore the rules and the principles.  Of course, not all backcountry users follow the rules, either. Is a bonfire necessary to have the campfire ambience? Is a campfire really necessary?

This week is the anniversary of Wallow Fire. What goes through your mind as you look back on that fire, and how could have LNT prevented that blaze?
It is my understanding that two men, who left their fire unattended, started the fire.  Principle 7 of Leave No Trace is Minimize Campfire Impacts.  This principle includes the following:

·      Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking, and enjoy a candle lantern for light.

·      Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires.

·      Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.

·      Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely and scatter cool ashes. 

Had these men put out their fire completely before they left their site, then this devastating fire could have been prevented.  Even if a fire was in a campsite and within a fire ring, one should always make sure that their fire site is out cold.  Cold means that when you place your hand upon the fire site, you should feel no warmth.  Sometimes there are smoldering embers beneath the surface that we cannot see.  But if we feel for it, then a fire can be avoided.

According to the Incident Information System, the Slide Fire is human caused, though still under investigation. Long term, what do you think will happen if, moving forward, we do not implement LNT in our daily lives?
People, especially in Arizona, should understand that lands in our Southwest regions are very dry and overly sensitive to fire impacts.  Having a water shortage makes it worse.  If we do not implement Leave No Trace and its principles, the impacts of wildfire will happen more often. People will start fires anywhere, regardless of rules and conditions.  There is a common-sense attitude about the principles and education. This is to make things safer and better. Leave No Trace is not supposed to be an inconvenience. I believe that Leave No Trace and its principles have been minimizing the impact of fires in our region.

How can the public help spread the word about LNT?
Many organizations, public and private, are spreading the word about Leave No Trace. Upon learning the principles, share them and their importance.  Spreading the word is educating.

The Leave No Trace Center of Outdoor Ethics has been working hard with many organizations and corporations in supporting educational training and awareness workshops. Although the training may have a cost, depending on where you take it, from a master educator/trainer point of view, it’s worth learning and preserving the outdoors and practicing outdoor ethics.

As an Arizona advocate, I get the word out and help provide training and awareness workshops. The trainers are all volunteers and knowledgeable to give Leave No Trace.  They teach Leave No Trace through hands-on activities and games.

To learn and spread the work, request information from Leave No Trace. Contact your state advocate for options and opportunities to have Leave No Trace visit your troop or organization and help you implement Leave No Trace. The Leave No Trace trainers are volunteers. We believe in Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.  Contact me to get you the information.

And not only learn it, but practice it and share it with your organization.  It may take a while to educate, but in the long run, it will be worth it. It is a worthwhile cause.

What are some simple things the public can do now that will help protect our outdoor spaces?
Throw your trash away in designated areas. This includes food items that will attract wildlife, a safety and health issue for both the animal and us. Additionally, make sure cigarettes are fully extinguished and properly thrown away.

Do not play with matches, lighters or fire. Some people are fascinated with fire. Teach them the dangers of fire and teach then how to properly use them for when they need to use this tool.

Store flammables away correctly as directed.

Cut tree branches away from flammable areas, such as those hanging over chimneys.

Keep in mind that if you have to build a fire that is not in an established fire ring, please consider the location of your fire. Typically, tree-root systems lay as far as the tree canopy.  Do not place your fire under the canopy area, since the root system may catch on fire and travel.  This is known as root fire and is also considered very dangerous.  After your fire, put it out cold, then dismantle it and leave no trace.

Be prepared, be aware of the rules and follow them. Rules are made to protect the area and us. There may be a fire restriction or water concerns. There may be sick or dangerous animal situations in the area. Rules are made to protect the environment and us.

Talk to me about the programs your organization offers.
We have volunteer trainers who are available to share Leave No Trace with you.  There is the REI PEAK program; you can borrow these kits from REI or purchase them online. Traveling Trainers provide workshops and attend events to share Leave No Trace at no cost; just make your request for their appearance online. They are a terrific addition to any event or visit. Backyard sessions are when a trainer comes over and talks about Leave No Trace to your group. You can talk to your state advocate about scheduling these opportunities. Leave No Trace has some grant opportunities to cover educational materials and training costs.  More information on this is online at www.LNT.org. Hot Spots is a conservation-related program. It is based on nominating locations in need of major improvements due to the destruction suffered.  Then Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics will work with others to bring the location back to its original natural state.

You offer LNT principles for kids; what tips can you offer parents who want to teach their children how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly?
Working with kids is fun! We work with many kid organizations, Scouts, schools and clubs for children. The key component to teaching children is to make it short and fun. Some of the fun is through games and hands-on activities.  Create an LNT Bingo game for a hike, create a cootie catcher with the principles, and teach them to be considerate to others and their environment, as you would expect them to be at school and home. Take the online awareness course, too.

There are many resources to help teach children Leave No Trace. For example, you can go to your local REI and borrow the PEAK program.  This program was created by REI, through their partnership with the center, to provide an outdoor ethics kit to teach kids Leave No Trace.  This kit contains cards with games and materials that can be used, making it fun to learn Leave No Trace. REI also offers free workshops, often hosted by the Traveling Trainers, where they love to teach with children and other organizations about Leave No Trace.

You can contact your Leave No Trace state advocate to arrange a visit or send you Leave No Trace material for your use.

For more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/LNTAZ or http://lnt.org/get-involved/state/az.

You can also contact de Leon Reilly at: AZadvocate@lnt.org 

—Kathy Ritchie


Filed under Eco Issues, Mother Nature

Glass Containers Banned at Oak Creek and Fossil Creek

Jeff Maltzman | Oak Creek

Jeff Maltzman | Oak Creek

It’s April 22 … yep, Earth Day. As such, we thought this reminder about following the Leave No Trace Principles was especially appropriate. Unfortunately, LNT is an ethos that is frequently ignored (as you’ll read below and in our upcoming June issue), and that’s a dangerous problem. Now, our friends at the Forest Service have implemented this latest ban to keep visitors safe and, hopefully, eliminate dangerous litter.

The Coconino National Forest is implementing a prohibition on glass food and beverage containers on federal lands near Oak Creek and Fossil Creek, two popular public swimming areas. This ban will be in effect beginning April 1, 2014. Broken glass containers are to blame for cut feet and litter in many locations along these two streams. This prohibition will enhance health and safety and reduce hazardous waste in the stream corridor.

Along Oak Creek near Sedona, glass containers are prohibited on Forest land within 300 feet of the edge of Oak Creek except within designated picnic and campgrounds or within a motor vehicle. This prohibition extends from Red Rock Crossing upstream through Oak Creek Canyon to Pumphouse Wash.

For Fossil Creek, glass containers are prohibited within the entire Wild and Scenic River area ¼ mile on either side of Fossil Creek from the Fossil Springs area downstream to below Stehr Lake. This includes portions of the Coconino and the Tonto national forests. Visitors may have glass containers within their vehicle.

Forest visitors are encouraged to abide by the prohibition so that the stream corridor is safer for everyone. Visitors should bring alternate types of containers with them if they are picnicking stream-side. The prohibition will be posted at all bulletin boards and entry areas. Per Title 16 36 CFR 261.50 (a) and/or (b), violation of this Order is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or imprisonment for not more than six (6) months, or both.

Contact the Red Rock Ranger District at (928)-203-2900 or for additional information.


Filed under Eco Issues, Et Cetera, Mother Nature

Editor Robert Stieve on the Wallow Fire

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Images courtesy of Wallow Fire Information / US Forest Service, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

It’s hard to watch the news, but there’s no point in turning off the television. The images are everywhere: Facebook, Flickr, Twitter. Especially Twitter. Of all the mainstream social media, Twitter is the best for breaking news. Coups in Egypt. Earthquakes in Japan. Wildfires in Arizona. The information is essential, but it’s hard to look at the catastrophe that’s unfolding in the White Mountains.

As editor-in-chief of Arizona Highways, I’m often asked about my favorite place in the state. It’s an impossible question, because there are so many places, but when I’m pushed, I usually admit it’s a tossup between the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Hannagan Meadow in the White Mountains. Unfortunately, because of the cataclysm known as the Wallow Fire, there’s no longer a debate. It’s hard to imagine there will be anything left of Hannagan Meadow and the surrounding forests by the time the fire is finally put out.

As I write this blog, the blaze, which began on May 29, has already consumed 336,000 acres, and the wind gusts of more than 60 mph are making matters worse. At this point, zero percent of the fire has been contained. Zero percent. The fire is now the second largest in Arizona history, and it’s probably only a matter of time before it surpasses Rodeo-Chediski — two fires, both caused by human negligence, that merged as one.

It seems like just yesterday when that inferno was raging, but it’s been almost 10 years. And time isn’t healing the wound. Not for me, anyway. I still get heavy-hearted when I drive across the Mogollon Rim and see the apocalyptic devastation. It’s upsetting, and so is the Wallow Fire. Upsetting, depressing, sorrowful … there aren’t any words strong enough to describe what I’m feeling. I never thought I’d live to see anything as bad as Rodeo-Chediski, much less something worse. But that’s how the Wallow Fire is playing out, and like Rodeo-Chediski, we’re all in a state of shock.

It’s the same shock we feel during any other disaster. Certainly, you can’t compare Engelmann spruce and Douglas firs to the victims of a tsunami or an earthquake, but there is a similar feeling of helplessness and hopelessness when you see the dramatic photos, and when you think about what’s been lost and how that will decimate the local economies. And just when you think you couldn’t feel any worse, you think about how the Wallow Fire shouldn’t be burning at all. Although lightning fires do occur, this one was started by someone who forgot to pack his thinking cap when he headed into the great outdoors.

The details of how the fire got started are still being investigated, but according to officials of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, it was caused by a human being. Whether it was ignited by a cigarette butt, fireworks, an unattended campfire … we don’t know. Either way, somebody made a mistake. A big mistake. I was fortunate enough to be raised by an avid outdoorsman who taught me how to be careful in the forest and how to properly extinguish a campfire. But even without that training, you’d think common sense would prevail when it comes to fire. It doesn’t. It certainly didn’t for the person or persons responsible for the Wallow Fire. Or the person or persons responsible for the Horseshoe Two Fire in the Chiricahua Mountains, the Murphy Fire in the Atascosa Mountains, and all the others.

Ironically, unlike a raging forest fire, it’s pretty simple to put out a campfire. However, before you even think about firing up a portable stove or building a campfire, check with the area’s governing agency beforehand. Fire restrictions may apply during times of high fire danger. Times like now. DO NOT IGNORE THE WARNINGS.

When there aren’t any fire restrictions in place, and you’re at a campsite where fires are allowed, use only established fire pits, and put out your fire at least 60 minutes before you start to break camp. Let the fire die down, then pour water over the wood and ashes and cover them with soil. Mix the soil, water and ashes until the fire and any embers are completely out. Then, wait around for at least another hour to make sure it’s safe to leave. Again, use common sense and always adhere to the Leave No Trace Ethics.

If there’s a bright side to the Wallow Fire, it’s that no one has been seriously injured so far. Some of that is luck, but most of it is a credit to the incredible men and women who risk their lives to save our forests and our cabins and our favorite places. Last summer, almost to the day, I was stranded at Hannagan Meadow Lodge because of the Paradise Fire, which was burning in the adjacent Blue Range Primitive Area. The firefighters used the lodge as a staging area, and I had an opportunity to interact with many of them and talk about their heroic efforts. Of course, they didn’t see themselves as heroes. It was just another day on the job for them. But they are heroes, and we owe them a sincere debt of gratitude — for what they’ve accomplished so far, and for what lies ahead.

Time will tell what’s left of the woods when the Wallow Fire has finally finished burning, but this much we know: One of the most beautiful places in the world, one of my favorite places in Arizona, is being destroyed, and it’ll never be the same. Not in my lifetime, not in your lifetime, and not in the lifetime of the perpetrator who ignited this mess. I have no expectation that the authorities will ever track down the people responsible for the three large fires now burning in Arizona, but at the very least, I hope they’re sitting at home, glued to their televisions and thinking, How in the hell could I have been so stupid?

Let’s learn from their mistakes, and let’s hope history quits repeating itself. Meanwhile, let’s all pray for rain.


— Robert Stieve, editor-in-chief, Arizona Highways


Filed under Eco Issues, In YOUR Words, Make a Difference, Mother Nature