A great article from the Leave No Trace organization Original Source: https://lnt.org/blog/5-biggest-myths-hurting-our-public-lands 5 Biggest Myths Hurting our Public Lands Lake Tahoe, CA: For the past 16 months we've been traveling the Western United States, visiting national and state parks, designated campgrounds, BLM sites, and wilderness areas to teach visitors how to protect our public lands by recreating ethically and responsibly. We’ve camped 250 nights this past year and have seen some incredible places- and some not so incredible places. Places where the wildlife issues are so bad the squirrels will jump on you while you’re eating to get at your food, places littered with toilet paper and smell of human feces, places where there are two trails to the same place, an uphill and downhill trail, because people refuse to yield to other users, or places closed because of a recent fire caused by someone who left their campfire unattended. As we travel and educate we see some common themes, common misconceptions of how to act in the outdoors that are actually hurting the places people like to visit. 1. “Leave fruit peels and crumbs for the wildlife!” We often see orange and banana peels, apple cores, and other food scraps left on sides of trails and at campsites. “It’s natural. It’s biodegradable. It’s food for the squirrels and birds.” We find even well-assuming people, who consider themselves environmentalists and conservationists, are unaware of the problems that throwing out food scraps and fruit peels pose to their favorite trails and campgrounds. Leaving food behind attracts wildlife closer to humans. When these items are thrown out of car windows it attracts wildlife to roadways where they can become roadkill. When they are thrown on the sides of trails or at a campground, animals learn this is a place where they get food. Maybe an apple isn’t the worst thing for them, but once they start hanging out around humans someone will eventually hand the animal something worse like trail mix or chips. Animals can get aggressive while seeking our food and can be eradicated or put to death because of the dangers of diseases and close human contact. We’ve seen this issue first hand. On a hike to Angels Landing in Zion National Park a squirrel climbed my backpack, boldly up my shoulder, and to the top of my head! When it couldn’t get food from me, it followed another visitor who unloaded the crumbs of their trailbar onto their leg to get a photo with the critter. In a campground in Dinosaur National Monument a chipmunk jumped into our car searching for food, we spent the next five minutes opening doors until it finally hopped out. This behavior can be avoided. Keep wildlife wild by packing out all trash: food scraps like orange and banana peels, apple cores, and sunflower or pumpkin seeds included. Orange peels left out for wildlife can be harmful to their health and attracts wildlife closer to humans. 2. “If wildlife can poop in the woods, so can my dog!” We’ve all seen them on hikes or walks in suburban areas. Little bright bags perfectly tied up and left on the side of the trail. Leave No Trace treats dog waste the same as human waste. It has harmful pathogens made up from the processed dog food, medications, and vitamins we feed our pets. These pathogens can make other dogs sick and add harmful additional nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to the environment. If it’s too close to water these nutrients can cause algae blooms and pollute water sources by introducing E.Coli and giardia. Dog waste can take a long time to decompose, and in a plastic bag, which can take 20-30 years to break down, will last even longer. We often get questions about the difference between dog waste and wildlife waste, “Why can deer and bear poop in the woods and my dog can’t?”. Wildlife are eating plants from the area and restoring those same nutrients back into the environment. This cycle is well demonstrated in Rocky Mountain National Park where bear poop returned seeds into an area after eating huckleberries. To avoid polluting water sources, pack out dog waste or dig a cathole for your dog! This friendly dog needs you to pick up after it!