The mountain environment is a delicate one. By understanding how we impact on wildlife, landscapes and each other, we can modify our behaviour to ensure that we treat the land, animals and people within these environments with respect.
A number of Ireland’s National Parks are part of a nationwide programme called Leave No Trace. The Leave No Trace skills and ethics help visitors to the outdoors leave minimum impact while enjoying the National Parks.Leave No Trace principles are not regulations. They are guidelines to help visitors make informed decisions in the outdoors so that they may leave the area as beautiful and as natural as they found it.
The 7 principles of ‘Leave No Trace’:
(1) Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area that you’ll visit. The National Park Information office can advise on protected areas and seasonal concerns.
- Check if your chosen recreation or activity is permitted. Always follow signs.
- Check the weather forecast. Prepare for changeable weather and the possibility of something going wrong.
- Ensure you have the skills and equipment needed for your activity.
- If you are a group leader you have added responsibilities – know the competencies and expectations of your group.
For environmental, safety and social reasons split large parties into smaller groups less than 10, ideally between 4-6.
(2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Durable surfaces include established trails, rock, gravel, dry grass and snow.
- On eroded tracks keep to the centre of the track, even when wet and muddy, to avoid widening the erosion.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to avoid creating new tracks
- Avoid areas where impacts are just beginning to show.
(3) Respect Wildlife
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviour and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Dogs should be kept under effective control – i.e. they should come at first call.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young and winter.
(4) Leave What You Find
- Take care not to damage old walls, ruins, abandoned mine shafts and their workings.
- Leave rocks, plants, animals and other natural objects as you find them. Fallen trees and dead wood are valuable wildlife habitats – please do not remove or damage.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species. E.g. wash down all boats to avoid introducing zebra mussel.
(5) Be Considerate of Others
- Park carefully – avoid blocking gateways and forest entrances. Remember that Park staff and the emergency services may need access at all times.
- Respect other visitors and the quality of their experience.
- Take rest breaks away from tracks.
Let natures sounds prevail; avoid loud noises.
(6) Dispose of Waste Properly
- “Leave No Waste” – remove all rubbish and leftover food items, even biodegradable items like T-bags and fruit peels.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 30m away from streams or lakes, use small amounts of biodegradable soaps if necessary. Scatter strained wastewater.
- Human waste should be buried or carried out depending on the soil type. Waterlogged soils impede the proper break down of waste. Human waste should be removed in these areas.
- To dispose of solid human waste, dig a “cathole” – a hole 10-12cm deep, located at least 30m away from watercourses and 50m from walking routes. Cover and disguise the hole when finished.
- All toilet paper and hygiene products should be carried out.
(7) Minimize the Effects of Fire
- Fire can be devastating to habitats and wildlife. Campfires are not currently permitted in the National Park; the issuing of permits for campfires is suspended pending review.
- Only gas barbeques are permitted within the National Park.
Download the Leave No Trace brochure here.
You can visit the Leave No Trace Ireland website at www.leavenotraceireland.org