Sunday, July 6, 2008

LNT and AC5 (Leave No Trace, and ArrowCorps5)

[Sara Close, the Leave No Trace Membership & Development Manager, asked me to share my thoughts on LNT]

Although I was born in the 1950s, my earliest memories are from the 1960s, including hearing about a black bear cub rescued from a forest fire and nicknamed Smokey The Bear. The same era of Disneyland, and the Disney on TV, with mock documentaries about the future, such as the traveling road paver machines that went through virgin timber, leaving macadam in their path. Superhighways were to be our legacy.

Pack-rat that I am, I found this in my folder labeled "post cards":

Fast forward to the end of the 1960's, the "death of the hippies", Chicago, Altamont, and the light of the first Earth Day. I was inspired by idealism of peace activists, the Catonsville 9 in a Baltimore suburb, the counterculture movement rejecting traditional concepts. In high school, I decided to take my math and science skills and put them to use as an environmental engineer. Fortunately, I was accepted into college and earned a 4 year degree that enabled me to do what? Become a "sanitary engineer" and then a "public health engineer," fancy names for an environmental professional. A defining moment came on a short walk in the woods of New Jersey with a college friend, where I carelessly dropped a food wrapper and got a stare, and then recognition that all the woods are my back yard, not just the ones near my house, or ones labeled state or national park. Colin, if you read this, thanks very much!

Skip ahead to the late 1980s, now married, with an infant son, living in an urban neighborhood in Baltimore City. We became involved with the community organization, because our friends were already there. The City published announcements that they wanted to start recycling, and wanted neighborhood groups to run local collection stations. Kathy and I worked on a proposal to obtain one of 10 "roll-offs" for Belair-Edison, then patiently waited for the governmental wheels to turn. Maybe not as much patience as others, but we were rewarded, so to speak, with the responsibility of managing the site, volunteer workers, and publishing news, rules, and reports. For over 1 year, we collaborated with people of all ages to make recycling work. After the City began curbside pickup, we found ourselves with a lot more free weekends!

Jump ahead to the late 1990s, with our son grown up and joining Cub Scouts, and then Boy Scouts in our current neighborhood in Baltimore County. I began to learn about the requirements in the Boy Scout handbook, finding the sections on waste disposal (the slightly misnamed "cat hole" for example) familiar. Teaching young men how to behave in the woods became an unanticipated challenge, such as the strident debate on the merits of building portable toilet shelter in the campgrounds behind our host church. I steered the educational path along the Leave No Trace guidelines in the Scout manual, reasoning that quoting authority is a better approach then "because I said so".

During a merit badge weekend in 2002, I learned more formally about the Leave No Trace program, when another adult led an all-day training session, complete with cooking tips and sharing of food. I liked the patch, I liked the idea, and unlike a lot of other BSA awards, I could earn this one as an adult.

I needed to complete specific requirements, of which the most challenging turned out to be assisting 3 troop members to earn the award. By the Troop Court of Honor in December 2003, 4 Scouts had completed their LNT programs, so I earned the patch along with them. As of today, 3 others in the troop, including my son, met the BSA Leave No Trace requirements. During out 8 to 10 camping trips each year, we put the principles into practice, bringing home others' trash, recyclables and often working on service projects. Details of the troop awards are online at

Somewhere in this timeframe, I visited the website and joined as a member. After seeing the bigger picture, I started to gift memberships to those Scouts who earned the LNT patch. One in particular wears his Leave No Trace member T-shirt whenever possible, so much he's probably in need of a replacement! In 2005, I recognized that LNT is a non-profit eligible for donations from my company's (Black & Decker) matching gifts program. From then on, whenever I renew my membership or award a membership to another, I do the paperwork to increase my impact.

Early in 2008, I corresponded with colleagues at SAP (a large software firm based in Germany) about social responsibility, focusing on small steps such as reducing disposable water bottle use at large conference settings. I had a brain storm to increase Leave No Trace awareness by offering a free reusable water bottle to those who cared. I intended to give away 5 memberships, but didn't reach that goal. I was able to give away a few and plan to try this scheme again.

Now, what about ArrowCorps5?

I wasn't thinking of AC5 as a Leave No Trace project, as it initially seemed to be about trail building and trail maintenance, with the aim of encouraging national forest visitation. But as I went through the squad leader training weekend, and observed the participant training on Sunday before the crews went out into the forest, I realized that LNT principles are an integral part of the planning and execution of trail projects. Just having several hundred youth and adults working on National Forest property was a challenge. and you know what? I didn't find any trash in our project areas. The only thing I came back to camp with were a few nylon trail marker ribbons that had come off their locations.

As I reflected on the project goals, I decided one legacy I could leave was more memberships. I've decided to give my team the same opportunity I've given the Scouts in my local troop. Now I'm just waiting for them to get back to me with their choice of water bottle or T-shirt.

[Leave No Trace training for ArrowCorps5 participants at Camp Goshen, for the George Washington Jefferson National Forest project]

This past Sunday, our Cub Scout pack had a combined awards ceremony, Boy Scout bridging, and pool party. I asked Tommy, one of our Scouts, to get me a list of the Leave No Trace awards given to the Cubs. With his help, I uploaded this to a web page:

And, I referenced LNT for Cub Scouts in a short blog:

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