As the weather improves and we start to head outdoors, please consider the advisories below as you enjoy the outdoors.
Spring weather, wildflowers, and the easing of some pandemic-related restrictions are enticing many Northwesterners to get outdoors. However, the ever-shifting rules about going out in public, plus the increased crowding at many outdoor destinations can make it confusing to know what rules to follow when and where, and which locations are okay to visit. Therefore, we would like to share the following guidance about how to respect nature and each other when visiting natural areas this spring. We also encourage you to check out #RecreateResponsibly for more tips and inspiration to spread the message.
Be COVID Safe
Pandemic-related precautions are still important this spring! Of course, stay home when sick and pay attention to local, state, and federal guidelines and restrictions. The safest option is still to recreate close to home but if you do travel, be mindful of your impact on communities you visit. Remember that smaller, more rural communities have fewer resources to deal with virus outbreaks or outdoor accidents. Go prepared to take care of your own safety and sanitation.
Although the risk of airborne virus transmission is lower outdoors, physical distancing and masks still help us protect each other’s health. The American Hiking Society recommends you keep a mask handy and wear it outdoors whenever you might get close to people who are not in your household or whenever you stay in one spot for more than 10 minutes with other people around.
Leave No Trace
Most natural areas owned by Columbia Land Trust lack formal, maintained visitor infrastructure. If you visit, be prepared as you would in a wilderness setting and follow “Leave No Trace” principles including packing out your trash and minimizing damage to vegetation and wildlife. No matter when you visit, it is always important to clean your shoes of all dirt and debris BEFORE entering natural areas to prevent the introduction of any weed seeds.
With the increasing popularity of outdoor recreation, it’s more important than ever to have a backup plan and be prepared to turn around if you arrive to find your destination is crowded. This is not only to protect human health, but also to protect nature. If you find a full parking area, do not make a new parking space, which may be illegal, unsafe, or damaging to vegetation. Avoid crowded trails so that no one will have to step off trail to give someone else space. Plants and animals emerging in spring can be very sensitive to disturbance and some are so small that they may go unnoticed by a hiker stepping off a trail. In areas without established trails, walk on hard surfaces like rocks or logs and avoid wet areas and delicate plants.
Consider leaving your dog at home or keep them on a leash to help them with social distancing (not a dog’s strong suit!). Also, ground-nesting birds are easily disturbed by dogs so leashing is especially important during spring nesting season, and is required on some Land Trust properties. Other properties do not allow dogs at all.
Know the Rules
Many Land Trust properties that are open to the public are closed to certain activities such as camping, motorized vehicles, bicycles, horses, or hunting. Make sure to verify which activities are allowed on a property before making plans by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Columbia Land Trust hopes you enjoy the outdoors while taking care of nature and your fellow nature enthusiasts this spring! Share your photos of the people, places, and wildlife that inspire you in the Pacific Northwest.
Thank you for doing your part in keep us all safe,
The Columbia Land Trust Stewardship Team
Ensure that our natural areas are healthy and vibrant for many springs to come by making a gift today. Your support is more important now than ever as restrictions related to the pandemic increase the costs of our stewardship work.