NOS Mission

Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.
This is the spot for us to share stories, fun ideas or general musings. When you aren't in here, we hope to see you out there!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Leaving No Trace in Hawaii

During Thanksgiving break, a fellow Nevada Outdoor School employee and I traveled to the great island of Oahu. Since we are both Leave No Trace (LNT) Master Educators we were on the lookout for how Hawaii practices LNT throughout our trip.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Before our trip even started we were leaving no trace by planning ahead and preparing. For those of you in Nevada, and most of the other lower 48, I’m sure you’re familiar with these stabby invaders – puncturevine aka goatheads. Even though goatheads have already been introduced in Hawaii, I didn’t want to be an accomplice to a further invasive invasion; which is why I was sure to check the shoes that I was taking with me for stowaways before I got on the plane.

Check for invasives or any organic matter in
your equipment before traveling to a new area

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: During our visit we trekked to the top of Diamond Head, Hawaii’s most recognizable landmark. Along the path there were signs asking visitors to stay on the trail for their safety and to prevent erosion. At times land managers will put up signs that just say “stay on the trail” with no explanation, or “stay on the trail” with the threat of a fine; however, the signs at Diamond Head told visitors why. Maybe some of you have heard of the idea, authority of the resource? The notion behind authority of the resource is that you’re more likely to get desirable behavior from visitors if they understand how their actions affect the way nature operates, rather than threatening them with regulations and fines. Plus, advising visitors of an action because it will keep them safe helps too.

I want to help protect Diamond Head by staying on the trail!

3. Dispose of Waste Properly: We saw this logo on trash cans throughout our travels on the island. I think this is a great way to let people know that helping is simple – throw away your trash.

We’ll say they’re caring for plants by throwing
away trash – not throwing away plants…
unless they’re invasives!

4. Leave What You Find: While stopped at a lookout on the southeast point of Oahu we found a mass collection of rock cairns with no evident purpose or reason. Art? Calling for a moment of reflection? A confusing trail system? Or just an impact bandwagon? 

Calling for a moment of reflection? I think the view speaks for itself.

Our friends at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics found a similar collection of rock cairns in Boulder, Colorado and wondered if it was art or impact.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts: We didn’t have an opportunity to practice this principle of LNT, but a quick note – if you’re looking to enjoy a sunset on the beach with a toasty fire contact local land managers or law enforcement to find out where you can legally do so.

6. Respect Wildlife: An exciting aspect of visiting a new place is seeing the wildlife that inhabits that ecosystem. Personally, I had two aquatic animals on my wish list: sea turtles and dolphins. I was successful on both accounts with an added bonus of a Hawaiian Monk Seal.

Their Hawaiian name is ‘Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua,
which means dog that runs in rough seas

While enjoying the Pacific Ocean we came across a resting seal that had an area around it roped off with a helpful sign informing beach-goers why the seal had a protection zone around it; and thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) logo I knew where to get more information. I learned from the sign that Hawaiian Monk Seals are protected under Federal and State Law; come to discover there are only about 1,100 of these seals left that are endemic (native) to the Hawaiian Islands. At least they’re faring better than their monk seal counter parts – the Caribbean Monk Seal is extinct and the Mediterranean Monk Seal has numbers in the low hundreds. Now that we’re all thoroughly bummed out, look at NOAA’s Natural History and Conservation of the Hawaiian Monk Seal brochure to lift your spirits. In the brochure you’ll find more information on Hawaiian Monk Seals, ways you can make a difference, and pictures of cute baby seals.

In search of more wildlife, we ventured to the North Shore to find sea turtles. Success again! We spotted a few turtles in the waves off shore then stumbled upon a Green Turtle resting on the beach. Using LNT’s rule of thumb, we kept a respectful distance while observing and taking photos. For those not familiar with the rule of thumb: close one eye, hold your thumb out, and then put your thumb in your line of sight between you and the wild animal. You shouldn’t be able to see the animal behind your thumb. If you can – you’re too close. On that same note, if you’re observing wildlife and they start to change their behavior, you’re also too close.

I promise I’m practicing the LNT rule of thumb;
not pretending to punch the sea turtle.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Consider visiting areas when you can avoid times of high use. We may have avoided more of the crowd at Diamond Head if we began our trek a bit earlier. This idea also falls into the first principle of LNT – plan ahead and prepare, but with this many people on a cramped trail being considerate and respectful of others is essential for everyone’s sanity. Slower traffic stay to the right to let others pass. Thank you and excuse me go a long way. And my favorite tip – don’t hog the lookout point; others want for photo opportunities too.

8. Happy Holidays! Even Santa plans ahead and prepares when going on vacation – note he’s packing sunscreen!

Mr. and Mrs. Sanda Clause preparing for their trip to Hawaii.
(That’s not a typo – this is a sand sculpture!)

Happy Holidays and Mahalo,

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