Leave No Trace


The last week in class we discussed the acceptance that as a society we must keep our lawns looking pristine. We even dug a little further and defined what a lawn really is, and how the concept of having and maintaining a lawn is an act that completely relies on human effort. I wanted to look at another landscape that has quite a bit of meaning to myself, and present it as an example of how the disneyfication of a natural landscape can often be harmful. The difference between this landscape and those of our backyards is how they’re both maintained, and how human effects can put these landscapes into danger.

Two summers ago nine of my friends and I took a train from Chicago to Raton, New Mexico for a ten day backpacking trip at a Boy Scouting camp known as Philmont Scout Ranch. Over 1 million Boy Scouts have walked hundreds of miles in trails that span elevations of up to 12,441 feet. My friends and I had an 80 mile trip, landing a stop at the highest point on the ranch known as Mt. Badly. This was a climb that took quite a few hours to make, topping off at an elevation that is a quarter of Mt. Everest’s height. But, just north of the ranch was a landscape known as the Valle Vidal.

The Valle Vidal is classified as a desert, according to Philmont’s website (link below), but it is more or less a forested desert. Our hike took us into the Valle for about half of the trip, and every camp we visited was expected to be kept under pristine conditions. This is because the land is quite literally too natural to urbanize. It is a perfect location for oil drilling, but the landscape cannot take any deforestation due to a massive forest fire made outside of the territory in 2003 that left many of the trees black and dead. The fire spread from an area outside of the property that had become urbanized locally and slowly became mistreated, and the effects had spread over to pristine land. Keeping the land natural is crucial to the land’s survival, which is why was donated to Boy Scouts and other environmentalists to enjoy and support the growth of the land.

So because of a mistreatment of nature, I beautiful landscape had taken a rough hit. In 2006, an act was approved to keep the land from being drilled. And on top of that, the Scouters and trailblazers who attend follow a strict set of rules for keeping the property safe. The rules mostly revolve around staying away from grass that isn’t worn, and the disposal of waste properly. If we followed these rules at home, imagine how different our landscapes would look.






3 thoughts on “Leave No Trace

  1. I like hearing stories of areas that are protected, especially when a naturally beautiful area wants to be drilled for the profit of others. The pictures are especially telling of how amazing the area is. Maybe I can visit it one day and see how truly amazing it is.

    – Josh Obermeyer


  2. I think your last sentence is really thought provoking because of how much humans separate ourselves from nature. We will devote time and resources to protect lands like the ones above and then pollute the areas we live in.


  3. Using the land without leaving evidence that you where there is what every campsite, park and protected area should strive for in their tourists. The story of that land was a little sad, because it couldve been prevented. All to often people dont use common sense and nature suffers for it. Organizations like the boy scouts, whom defend the environment bc they understand that nature is something that needs to be appreciated and respected, rather than trashed and tarnished should pioneer movements to decrease direct human impact.

    Chandler B


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