Leave No Trace

Your actions matter! 

Help Visit Cook County to preserve the natural world for generations to come by following the Leave No Trace principles! Leave No Trace is a prevention-based set of guidelines that aims to educate people on how to use wild spaces ethically and sustainably. Choices you make on your next visit to The North Shore, Gunflint Trail, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, or Superior National Forest will have an impact for years to come. It is up to you to decide if that impact is positive or negative.  

Visit Cook County looks to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics as the main source of guidance for ourselves and our visitors in this matter. Most of the information on this page was obtained from this source. 


7 Guiding Principles of Leave No Trace:

The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. Although Leave No Trace has its roots in backcountry settings, the Principles have been adapted so that they can be applied anywhere — from remote wilderness areas, to local parks and even in your own backyard. They also apply to almost every recreational activity. Each Principle covers a specific topic and provides detailed information for minimizing impacts.

The Seven Principles are well established and widely known, but they are not static. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics continually examines, evaluates and reshapes the Principles. The Center’s Education Department conducts research — including publishing scholarly articles in independent journals — to ensure that the Principles are up to date with the latest insights from biologists, land managers and other leaders in outdoor education.

Plan Ahead and Prepare
Adequate trip planning and preparation helps backcountry travelers accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably, while simultaneously minimizing damage to the land. Poor planning often results in miserable campers and damage to natural and cultural resources. Rangers often tell stories of campers they have encountered who, because of poor planning and unexpected conditions, degrade backcountry resources and put themselves at risk.

LNT in Action in Cook County: Visit Cook County has many resources to help you plan too! Explore our site to find links to all kinds of lodging (including outfitter and guides to help you plan your trip), local dining and retail locations, suggested packing lists, maps, trail conditions, events, and more.

Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
Mind where you hike or bike during the muddy season (when trails are most vulnerable). The goal of travel in the outdoors is to move through natural areas while avoiding damage to the land or waterways. Understanding how travel causes impacts is necessary to accomplish this goal. Travel damage occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond recovery. The resulting barren area leads to soil erosion and the development of undesirable trails. Backcountry travel may involve travel over both trails and off-trail areas.

LNT in Action in Cook County: Mind where you hike or bike during the muddy season (when trails are most vulnerable).

Dispose of Waste Properly
Consider the impacts that you leave behind, which will undoubtedly affect other people, water and wildlife.

LNT in Action in Cook County: Dispose of single-use face coverings and takeout containers in the proper receptacles. 

Leave What You Find
Allow others a sense of discovery by leaving rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.

LNT in Action in Cook County: Cutting down trees for firewood is not permissible. Firewood is offered for sale at many local establishments and roadside stands. 

Minimize Campfire Impacts
The use of campfires, once a necessity for cooking and warmth, is steeped in history and tradition. Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Campfire building is also an important skill for every camper. Yet, the natural appearance of many areas has been degraded by the overuse of fires and an increasing demand for firewood. The development of lightweight efficient camp stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire for cooking. Stoves have become essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. They are fast, flexible and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. Stoves operate in almost any weather condition—and they Leave No Trace.

LNT in Action in Cook County: Businesses, lives, wilderness, and your vacation could be ruined quickly by a forest fire. Did you know Cook County, Minnesota has no paid fire response force? Our fire emergency services operate on a 100% volunteer basis for all 3,000 square miles. The USFS will assist in the event of a major forest fire, but as history has taught this community through hard lessons, fires spread quickly and leave a lot of damage in their wake to wildlife, businesses, and the environment. PLEASE PRACTICE INFORMED AND RESPONSIBLE FIRE USE.

Respect Wildlife
Learn about wildlife through quiet observation. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a “better look.” Observe wildlife from a distance so they are not scared or forced to flee. Large groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife so keep your group small. If you have a larger group, divide into smaller groups if possible to minimize your impacts.

Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Travel quietly and do not pursue, feed or force animals to flee. (One exception is in bear country where it is good to make a little noise so as not to startle the bears.) In hot or cold weather, disturbance can affect an animal’s ability to withstand the rigorous environment. Do not touch, get close to, feed or pick up wild animals. It is stressful to the animal, and it is possible that the animal may harbor rabies or other diseases.

LNT in Action in Cook County: Securing your food and waste properly is important–Cook County, Minnesota is home to many critters and creatures who will get into your garbage if not adequately secured. While it might seem more like a nuisance than a serious problem at first, it actually creates a dangerous cycle. Animals who become dependent on trash, camp-waste, or unsecured human food as a main source of meals often have tragic endings. Don’t mistake the bear cub in your dumpster as a cute photo-op. Wildlife that has become a ‘nuisance animal’ are often hard to relocate and in consequence are often exterminated. Help prevent this from occurring by securing you food and waste. 

Be Considerate of Other Visitors
One of the most important components of outdoor ethics is to maintain courtesy toward other visitors. It helps everyone enjoy their outdoor experience. Many people come to the outdoors to listen to nature. Excessive noise, uncontrolled pets and damaged surroundings take away from the natural appeal of the outdoors.

When you practice the Leave No Trace principles, you are taking care of this beautiful space not just for yourself, but for others.

Thanks for doing your part!

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