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Being A Good Citizen In Nature
If you think about it, when we go camping, we are invading somebody else’s world. The animals and woodland creatures who make their homes in the forest were not asking to have humans come to their world and set up camp for a few days. If they pulled such a stunt in the middle of our living rooms, we would take drastic measures to be sure. So while we are living in the living rooms of nature’s creatures, it is our responsibility to treat their homes with respect and become good citizens of their wilderness home and do all we can not to disrupt the natural tranquility and beauty we find there.
Persevering the natural habitats where we go camping is important for other reasons than showing respect for the wildlife we meet there. Our woods and wilderness areas are a precious resource for all of us to enjoy from time to time. When you enter into a state or national park to find a camp site to enjoy, you can know that dozens of other campers have been in this camp site before you. If those campers had not been careful to respect the environment of this site and the natural beauty around it, these gifts of nature would not be here for you to enjoy. You know you will want to come back to camp in these parks in future years and for these great resources to be preserved for your grandchildren and their children to enjoy forever. For that to happen, each of us must take care of our natural resources every time we go camping.
We can take our cues on how to treat the wilderness with respect and conservation from the army of park rangers that our government keeps on staff to protect the parks of our country and preserve them for all citizens to enjoy. Early in your camp out, take time to the visitor’s center or the park rangers office and learn the rules of the park and ways you should take care to leave the camp site just as beautiful as when you found it. If there are particular issues you should be aware of concerning the ecology, the season you are camping or safety issues you should know about, the ranger will be eager to share that information with you. These men and women have dedicated their lives to keeping our natural camping areas beautiful and natural so its in our best interest to hear what they have to say and follow their rules and guidelines.
The National Park Service has worked hard to create prepared camp sites with already established fire rings and resources for you to use that will make your time camping enjoyable and easy. But they have also studied where those camp sites would be best situated so we cause as little disruption to the environment as possible. So one simple step we can do to be a good citizen in nature is to camp only in designated camp sites that have been set aside for our use. In that way, we are cooperating with the professionals who know where our camp sites should be and we do not disturb the natural environments around us.
As you set camp and enjoy your time in nature, keep high in your awareness that you should do all you can not to disturb the environment. That may mean something as simple as keeping your camp area clean so you don’t leave trash that is not natural to the forest. It also means trying to not disturb natural plant life and as much as possible leaving the natural living conditions of plants, insects and animals as undisturbed as possible.
This is not to say you cannot enjoy your time in the woods and laugh and play. That is what our camp grounds were made for us. But as you camp, be aware of simple rules you can follow to leave this natural world undisturbed by your visit including…
- Bring firewood with you and do not harvest firewood from the forest. When you are visiting the ranger station, you can ask what the park policy is about camp fires. There are times when they will want you to harvest wood for forest fires because it helps clean up an overabundance of downed dry wood in the park which reduces the fuel for forest fires. But check before you pick up any wood for burning.
- Never cut live branches from trees for firewood or any other purpose. Never cut down a living tree. Let nature decide what trees will live or die.
- During hikes on nature trails, enjoy the flowers and natural fauna but don’t take anything with you. Leave living things living there to continue to reproduce naturally.
- Don’t leave behind any human trash in your camp site or out in the woods during your hikes. Bring all trash home or deposit in park approved dumpsters. That coke can is not natural in the forest and the forest animals don’t appreciate you leaving it there for them to look at for decades to come.
- Don’t disturb the animals you naturally come across in the woods. Teach your children that forest animals are not toys. Not only is it unsafe to taunt or try to feed even the squirrels or birds, your food is not their natural food and if they get hooked on potato chips and cookies, it will disturb their natural digestion systems and lead to health problems for them. Be nice, don’t eat their food and don’t let them eat yours.
These common sense guidelines will go a long way toward assuring that our natural camping areas stay pristine and unaffected by human contamination for many decades to come. And by becoming responsible campers, we are demonstrating to other campers and to our families that there is a right and wrong way to view our natural resources and that the right way is to be a good citizen in nature so we will be welcome there when we come back next year.