The Leave No Trace Movement
Taiwan rises from the sea as a series of mountains, separated and connected by a multitude of valleys and rivers. The island has one of the highest densities of high mountains in the world with 200 mountains over 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) and 48 mountains above 3,500 meters (11,483 feet) and even medium or low altitude areas have high mountain peaks. Since the 1970s, as hiking gear improved and more mountain hiking groups were established, hiking and outdoor recreation has become more and more popular. Research shows that enjoying nature, mountain hiking and walking have become one of the country’s top-10 favorite recreational activities. However, many types of recreation can have a serious impact on fragile natural resources, especially when they are concentrated in certain areas at fixed times and can cause environmental damage. The most direct impact from mountain hiking is the “trampling” of hiking trails, which makes the soil more compact and hard, causing plants and organism in the soil to die, soil erosion, trail widening, exposing and harming the roots of flora, hollowing out roadbeds etc. In addition, inappropriate behavior by visitors such as leaving their garbage behind when hiking, especially in high mountain areas, also seriously impacts the environment, as it can take several decades for such garbage to degrade. Finally, it is also quite common for visitors to harm trees by cutting into their trunks with knives and to damage public facilities and historic sites.
Since 2001 the government has implemented the “National Trails System Construction Program” to develop a system of integrated and diversified natural and cultural recreation areas and to develop sustainable eco-tourism. However, when promoting mountain activities, it is important to reduce the impact of visitors on mountain forests by improving environmental awareness and hiking education. This is why special activities and simple behavior that improve the environment have become a focus for both public and private sectors. At a conference in 2006 on improving the national trail system, the Forest Bureau introduced the “Leave No Trace” concept from the US, which was met with great enthusiasm from the public and private sectors.
Although those involved with mountain hiking and environmental conservation in Taiwan have actively promoted the “Leave No Trace” movement, many people still do not understand the concept or how to practically implement it. We therefore hope that more companies, government agencies, schools and universities will participate and help to develop a broader environment-awareness movement across Taiwan, so that people who love their homeland can better help to protect it.
The seven Leave No Trace principles
The “Leave No Trace” movement reminds us to treat the forest environment with care and responsibility so as to minimize the impact we have while in the mountain forests. Such efforts can be traced back to the same seven principles. Following these principles, people who love outdoor activities can enjoy the beauty of nature while reducing their impact on the natural environment, wildlife and fellow nature lovers.