By David Schwartz
NWCO Hunting Guide
Northwest Colorado is home to nearly half a million acres of public land federally designated as wilderness area. Wilderness areas are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System created by the 1964 Wilderness Act. These areas receive special protection because of their value in providing wildlife habitat, watershed protection, recreational opportunities and spectacular natural beauty. Wilderness areas also protect lands with unique historical, scientific or educational significance. Wilderness areas located in northwest Colorado include the Flat Tops Wilderness, the Sarvis Creek Wilderness and the Mount Zirkel Wilderness.
The protection of wilderness areas is of particular importance to hunters and anglers because the wilderness designation is often utilized to not only preserve specific habitat, but to safeguard important wildlife migration corridors by linking national forests, state wildlife areas and other wilderness areas.
The Wilderness Act established parameters for designating wilderness areas as well as principles for protecting these areas. The overarching concept was to create expanses of land that would forever be minimally impacted by human activities. In practice, this means that logging, mining, drilling, building roads, land development, use of mechanized vehicles (including bicycles) and other potentially destructive activities are prohibited. Mining claims, livestock grazing rights and permanent structures that existed before the enactment of the Wilderness Act are often permitted under the grandfather clause.
While the Wilderness Act specifically addresses larger scale human activities, it doesn’t necessarily provide any concrete standards or expectations for ethical individual behavior in wilderness areas. Thirty years after the passing of the Wilderness Act, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (www.LNT.org) was established to identify and promote activities that protect backcountry and wild lands. Based on years of collaboration and research and built on the foundation of the “no trace” wilderness and backcountry travel guidelines created by the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management; the Leave No Trace Center proposed Seven Principles of Leave No Trace.
Following these basic principles helps us do our part to protect and preserve our public lands, wildlife and natural resources thereby ensuring that current and future generations will have opportunities to experience wild places.
. Plan Ahead and Prepare.
- Familiarize yourself with the area. Be aware of any specific regulations or concerns such as wildlife activity or environmental issues.
- Travel in small groups and avoid times of high use.
- Research your trip. Know your route in order to avoid traveling off established trails.
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces.
- Durable surfaces include designated trails and campsites, rock and dry grasses.
- Camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Utilize existing trails and campsites. Cutting new trail and establishing new campsites multiplies impact on wilderness as future users may utilize new trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of established trails. Don’t take shortcuts through switchbacks.
- Try to keep campsites small.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly.
- If you packed it in, you should pack it out.
- Pack out all trash including leftover food. Inspect campsites and picnic stops before leaving to be sure that nothing is left behind.
- Utilize toilet facilities whenever possible. Bury solid human waste in holes 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, campsites and trails.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- Use biodegradable soap. Wash dishes and yourself at least 200 feet from water.
4. Leave What You Find.
- Do not destroy, alter or collect cultural or historic artifacts.
- Leave natural objects such as rocks and plants as you found them.
- Take precautions to avoid introducing non-native species by inspecting clothing, gear and footwear for seeds and soil before entering the wilderness.
- Do not build structures, dig trenches or otherwise modify the natural environment
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts.
- Since campfires cause a long-term impact on the environment, use a lightweight stove for cooking and lantern or headlamp for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings or fire pits.
- Keep fires small. Only use down and dead wood from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
6. Respect Wildlife .
- Watch wildlife from a safe and respectful distance.
- Never feed wildlife. Feeding wildlife can be dangerous to the health of the animal. Feeding wildlife also teaches animals to see humans as source of food. This can create behaviors that are dangerous for both humans and animals.
- Protect yourself and wildlife by storing food properly.
- Always maintain control of pets or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young or winter. Wildlife can be especially unpredictable, dangerous or vulnerable during these times.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors .
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Yield to other users on the trail.
- Move to the downhill side of the trail when encountering horses or mules.
- Try to camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Avoid loud voices and noises.