Environmental Impact Caused By Walkers
Most people who enjoy walking and hiking as a pastime also tend to be aware of the environment to some degree or another. However many do not realise that it's their very activities which are carried out in areas where are often quite ecologically fragile that can actually destroy the environment that they love so much and which they want to protect. In many instances, it may not be their own individual impact which is causing any great harm but multiply their tiny effects by hundreds or even thousands of people who are all doing the same thing and, collectively, they could be contributing to ecological damage. Here are some negative consequences of hiking's impact upon the environment and some ways in which you can help to reduce it.
How Building Fires Hurts The EnvironmentFor many walkers and hikers, especially if you combine your love of hiking with camping, building a fire is often the perfect way to end the day as it provides fuel for cooking and to keep warm as well as being a nice way to spend time with your friends and family at the end of a successful day's walking. However, have you stopped to think about where you are gathering your wood from? It may well be that you are stripping an area of valuable nutrients for wildlife and other vegetation as well as removing what might be a living creature's home. You may find that by using a conventional stove or bringing in wood from other sources outside, you are helping to conserve a particular wood or forest. Furthermore, many areas of ecological importance have been destroyed by fires which have got out of control so you need to be extremely vigilant and take care whichever type of fire you intend to use.
Human Waste And EcologyHuman waste incorrectly dumped is one of the biggest causes of environmental damage. Both human faeces and urine can contaminate natural water supplies so you should take great care where you go to the toilet when hiking and walking. Digging a hole between, say, 4 and 10 inches deep is your best solution and you should do that away from water sources and trails.
Viewing Wildlife When HikingOne of the attractions when hiking or walking is to spot certain species of wildlife as they go about their business. However, for many species, unwanted intrusion or getting too close to wildlife can result in adult species abandoning their young or you may be interrupting the mating season which can have an extremely negative impact on the wildlife ecology, especially if you're disturbing any area in which there are endangered wildlife species present. Therefore, you should try to understand the patterns of behaviour of the species you are trying observe and to make sure you follow the expert's guidelines in how best to observe them without causing any disturbance as well as following any guidance or signs you might come across which tell you to avoid an area at any given time. And remember, binoculars are designed for a purpose - that of seeing wildlife close up without having to be too close. That environment their home too after all and you need to respect that.
Keeping to the Trail When WalkingWhilst you might be tempted to veer away from a trail when hiking to take a look at something interesting, you should refrain from doing so as although you might think you are doing no harm, trails are maintained for a reason and walking off them causes soil erosion, damages vegetation and, over time, many people who disregard this will cause damage to the ecology of the area. Even when it's muddy, it's important you stay on the trail. You can always get cleaned up later but going around a muddy trail to avoid it will simply widen the trail and destroy the environment it's designed to protect over time.
Leave Only Footprints When You've Been HikingThere is a lot of truth behind an often quoted phrase, "Take only photographs, leave only footprints". In other words, make sure that you don't leave any rubbish behind when you go out hiking and dispose of anything you do take with you in the proper manner or else take it out with you and dispose of it later. And never take out things from the environment like flowers, rocks or plant cuttings etc. They are there for a reason, remember, and are part of the rich ecological tapestry of the region serving either as food sources or providing a home or shelter to wildlife.
Small Groups Are Best When WalkingIf you are hiking as part of a group expedition, break up the group into a few smaller groups as this minimises the impact of human activity on the environment of a trail.
Camping And The EnvironmentFinally, if you are going to camp at the end of a day's hiking, make sure you dispose of your rubbish correctly or take it out with you when you depart the next day and leave the campsite in such a good condition that no one will have ever known you were camping there - that's the Country Code, and good sense for the environment. Also, if there are designated camp sites in the area, use them. Don't be tempted to camp anywhere other than the designated sites as this can cause damage to the local ecology too.
The key thing to remember when you are out walking or hiking in the countryside is to try to make as little impact upon the natural environment as possible. That way, you'll be helping to preserve its ecology and wildlife so that it can be enjoyed by future generations to come, just as you've been able to enjoy it.