Katchina Daisy

The Cedar Mesa Project

Minimum Impact Practices

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Each year millions of visitors enjoy Canyon Country. The impact of so much recreation use is threatening the area's biological and cultural resources. You can help protect this fragile and beautiful land by following these five minimum-impact practices.

1. Tread lightly when traveling and leave no trace of your camping. Hike on established trails where possible, on rocks, or in washes. Camp at designated sites or at previously-used sites. Avoid placing tents on top of vegetation. Use a camp stove instead of making a fire. Unless signs indicate otherwise, leave gates open or closed as you find them. Keep your group small- under 12 people in the wilderness.

Why it matters: Much of this area is a desert where plants are sparse and grow very slowly. Shallow soils erode quickly when vegetation is removed or protective cryptobiotic soil crusts are destroyed. These crusts are a complex of slowly-growing cryptobacteria, algae, mosses and lichens that bind the soil together, retain scarce water, and provide a usable source of nitrogen for desert plants. Your tracks do matter: once plants or soil crusts are damaged they may not recover in your lifetime. In addition, wood is a scarce resource that provides wildlife habitat and contributes to nutrient cycling.

How to help: Strive to leave no trace of your outing. Plan your route carefully.

When driving, riding, and hiking avoid taking short cuts and traveling through cryptobiotic soils. Don't be a trail or campsite "pioneer" who leaves a defined path or campsite for others to use. Select an area of bare soil for your tent.

Use a camp stove rather than burning firewood. If you must have a fire, use a fire pan and bring your own wood. Never cut live or standing trees or break dead branches from trees.

2. Help keep Canyon Country Clean. Pack out your trash and recycle it. Clean up after less thoughtful visitors, and dispose of human waste properly.

Disturbing or approaching wild animals will cause them to flee, possibly causing injury and definitely using up the vital energy reserves they need for mating, raising young, winter survival, and other activities.

How to help: Observe animals from a distance. Where pets are allowed, keep them under voice and/or physical control. Keep noise to a minimum in the backcountry: you will see more animals and not frighten them.

3. Leave historic sites, historic signatures, Native American rock art, ruins, and artifacts undisturbed for the future. Admire rock art and historic signatures but never touch them. Stay on trails to approach ruins and carefully stay off the walls and roofs within ruins. Leave artifacts where they are found, and report violations.

Why it matters: Canyon Country has an abundance of archaeological and historic sites, including rock art, historic inscriptions, old mines, cowboy camps, and Indian cliff dwellings. The people who created this legacy are gone. Today, the physical remains of their occupation are disappearing at an alarming rate. Small actions can add up to major damage. Rock art can be damaged just by touching it. The oil from fingertips speeds erosion by chemically altering ancient painted pigments and the rock itself. Sitting or climbing on rock walls and roofs can easily turn ruins into rubble. Walking across middens, the ancient trash heaps below ruins, can damage sites and destroy important information. Moving or taking artifacts also destroys their scientific value.

How to help: Leave all sites and artifacts undisturbed. Remember not to touch rock art or make marks on canyon walls. Leave artifacts where they are found and stay off the walls and roofs of ruins to avoid damaging them. When approaching a cultural site, avoid walking on soft soils which may destroy scientific information and which can cause erosion. Report vandalism to the nearest local authorities. (tel: 435/587-2141) Never confront nor approach vandals, or do anything to endanger your safety.

Why it matters: Trash, human waste, and toilet paper are significant problems that can quickly become health hazards and eyesores. Food scraps and garbage can turn wildlife into problem animals. No one wants to walk or camp where someone has left trash and human waste. For wilderness camping, dispose of bodily waste well away from water sources.

How to help: Make it a point to clean up campsites and day use areas during your visit. Take out all trash including toilet paper and food scraps, and dispose of them properly through recycling centers and landfills. In some areas, campers must use developed campgrounds or utilize portable toilets at designated undeveloped sites. Where special rules don't apply, bury solid human waste well away from the campsite and water sources in the upper few inches of soil.

4. Protect and conserve scarce desert water sources. Camp at least 300 feet (90 meters) from isolated water sources to allow wildlife access. Where possible, carry your own drinking water. Leave potholes undisturbed. Wash well away from pools and springs.

Why it matters: Many desert animals, especially birds, depend on the plants around isolated water sources for food and habitat. Camping near water sources damages plants and inhibits wildlife from approaching. Small quantities of pollutants can make springs and ponds un-usable for wildlife. Body lotions and vehicle lubricants can remain in the water and harm aquatic life, which in egg or larval form may be invisible to the naked eye.

How to help: Camp at least 300 feet (90 meters) from water sources to allow wildlife access. Where feasible, carry all the water you will need for drinking and personal hygiene. Bathe and wash dishes away from desert water sources. As a general rule, cool off in the shade, not in springs and potholes. Avoid driving, riding, or walking through desert water sources.

5. Allow space for wildlife. When encountering wildlife, maintain your distance and remain quiet. Teach children not to chase or pick up animals. Keep your pets under control.

Why it matters: Canyon Country has great wildlife viewing opportunities, including desert bighorn sheep, deer, elk, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, river otter, and a variety of small creatures.

Prepared by Canyon Country Partnerships, Science Committee; Modified by Cedar Mesa Project.

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URL of this page: http://bcn.boulder.co.us/environment/cacv/cacvmips.htm
Revised '9-Jun-2001,11:10:14'
Copyright ©1996, 1999 SCCS.