December 2011 Newsletter Archive
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Goose Gossip

Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints...

by Sloan Cathcart Senior Park Interpreter Whiteshell Provincial Park


Practicing "Leave No Trace In Manitoba’s Parks And Natural Areas".

Manitoba's Provincial Bird
Great Grey Owl

Many of us have taken a pine cone or rock, veered off the trail to dodge mud puddles, gotten too close to wildlife or tossed an apple core into the woods.  While these actions may see harmless at the time, until we learn to reduce our impact, the quality of our outdoor experiences and recreational resources we enjoy are at critical risk.  Also at risk is our continued access to wild lands as land management agencies sometimes have to take restrictive action to protect the resources they manage.  Unless, of course, education catches up with behaviour and we all learn to leave the outdoors as unchanged as possible by our presence.  By practicing Leave No Trace while visiting Manitoba’s parks and natural areas, we can ensure that our natural and cultural resources are protected and maintained for the enjoyment of future generations.


Practicing Leave No Trace does not mean following a set of rules, rather it strives to create a strong positive outdoor ethic that teaches us to minimize our impacts on the environment while enjoying outdoor recreational activities and sharing the land with all users.  Leave No Trace education is critical when you consider the combined effects of multi-millions of outdoor visitors (Manitoba’s provincial parks see over 5 million visitors annually!).  For example, one poorly located campsite or campfire may have little impact, but thousands of such instances can degrade natural resources and recreation experiences.


To protect our resources, it is important to recreate responsibly and educate ourselves on the practices of Leave No Trace.  There are seven principles of Leave No Trace that educate us on how to prevent avoidable resources and social impacts, minimize the unavoidable impacts and to ultimately preserve the quality of resources and recreational experiences.

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare – By following this principle, you can ensure the safety of your group, add enjoyment of the experience and help minimize your impact on the land. 
  • Know the regulations and special concerns of the area you’ll visit
  • Prepare for all types of weather by packing the appropriate clothing and food
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use, and visit in smaller groups – split larger parties into groups of 4-6.
  • Pack food in re-usable containers 
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces – This principle prevents soil erosion and vegetation damage and prevents the establishment of trails and campsites.  Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.  Walk single file in middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy. 
  • Dispose of Waste Properly – Pack it in, pack it out.  This will avoid pollution of water sources, minimize spread of disease, protects local plants and animals and avoids the possibility of others encountering it.  Inspect your campsite, trails and rest areas for trash, leftover food and litter.  
  • Leave What You Find – By taking photos or making drawings instead of taking items home, we increase enjoyment and sense of discovery for others.  This also prevents lasting damage to trees, plants, historical and cultural sites.  
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts – Campfires can cause lasting impacts on the land, such as causing wildfires.  Using a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.  Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings or fire pans.  Always pack out your trash, do not burn it in your campfire – not only does it not always completely burn, it can also attract unwanted wildlife.  In Manitoba’s Provincial Parks, all fires must be in approved fire pits from April 1 – November 15. 
  • Respect Wildlife – Observe wildlife from a distance, do not follow or approach them.  This not only maintains the safety of your group, but also the safety of the wildlife.  Animals that are not stressed help maintain the health of the ecosystem.  Never feed animals – this can cause damages to their health, alters their natural behaviours and exposes them to predators and other dangers. 
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors – Everyone enjoys the outdoors in a different way, but all outdoor visitors are sharing a common, finite space.  Consideration helps everyone have a positive experience.  Avoiding loud voices and noises, taking breaks and camping away from other visitors and yielding to other users on trails respects other visitors and protects the quality of their experience.


By following these seven principles when we are enjoying Manitoba’s great outdoors, we can ensure that everyone has a positive outdoor experience.  If we don’t practice Leave No Trace, our actions can negatively affect many aspects of our natural resources.

  • Negative actions affect the flora, fauna, water and geology.  Our behaviour can also affect other people.  As a result, the primeval character of wilderness is altered and laws are not respected.
  • Land managers and then forced to apply rules and regulations to protect wilderness.  This results in outdoor visitors having less freedom, scenery is damaged, resources are impacted, causing other users begin to not meet their responsibilities.

These negative aspects can all be avoided by instilling a strong, positive outdoor ethic when we are recreating outdoors.  By practicing Leave No Trace while visiting Manitoba’s parks and natural areas, we can ensure that our natural and cultural resources are protected and maintained for the enjoyment of future generations.  Leave No Trace is for everyone – it will make your time outdoors safer – and more fun!

Now that we’re all experts on enjoying the outdoors responsibly, why not come out on a winter guided hike?  Join me on Saturday, January 7, 2012 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. for a scenic walk to Pine Point Rapids in Whiteshell Provincial Park.  We will meet at the parking lot, located on PR #307 between Betula and Nutimik Lakes.  We will then trek out on this packed trail for an easy walk to the scenic Pine Point Rapids and discover the amazing adaptations that wildlife has to survive a Manitoba winter and how we can learn from their survival skills.  A warm-up shelter will greet us at the Pine Point Rapids where we will enjoy hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows.  Be sure to dress warmly for this 5 km hike!


For more information on interpretive events, how to Leave No Trace, or on Whiteshell Provincial Park, feel free to give me a call at 204-369-3157, email me at, or go online at  I wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season and see you in the New Year!

Sloan Cathcart
Senior Park Interpreter Whiteshell Provincial Park
Alfred Hole Interpretive Centre 204-369-5470
Rennie District 204-369-3157
Box 130 Rennie, MB R0E 1R0

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