Leave No Trace’s New Social Media Guidance

Leave No Trace Social Media Guidance.jpg

What is this trail called? Where is that waterfall? How did you get to those campsites? ... some of the most common questions i find in my inbox and direct messages.

Leave No Trace (LNT) recently released new social media guidance concerning tagging and sharing our favorite outdoor spaces and places on social media. This has been a tough subject for me. I essentially launched my blog six years ago with the hope that sharing my hikes and adventures would inspire people to get outside and enjoy the amazing places Virginia had to offer. Because of this I geotagged every post, gave detailed directions to every hidden spot and more. Six years ago, only people who read blogs or really wanted to find these locations would find my instructions but nowadays it’s a much different story. I think social media is both helpful and harmful to the outdoors. On one hand we have more people than ever getting outdoors and caring about the environment around them. On the other hand with more people comes more trash, damage to the environment and crowdedness. It’s an incredibly difficult subject to figure out. Personally, I have stopped tagging specific locations. I tag general locations instead (instead of tagging a specific trail or waterfall I’ll tag “Shenandoah National Park” instead. But while reading the new guidelines outlined by LNT this quote below stood out to me:

“Leave No Trace isn't black or white, right or wrong. It's a framework for making good decisions about enjoying the outdoors responsibly, regardless of how one chooses to do so. If outdoor enthusiasts stop and think about the potential impacts and associated consequences of a particular action, it can go a long way towards ensuring protection of our shared outdoor spaces.”

I think this about sums up how I feel. It’s not a black or white, right or wrong issue. We all just need to do the best we can to ensure the protection of our shared outdoor spaces. I have more thoughts below but first I want to post the guidelines:

+ Tag thoughtfully: Avoid tagging (or geotagging) specific locations. Instead, tag a general location such as a state or region, if any at all. While tagging can seem innocent, it can also lead to significant impacts to particular places.

+ Be mindful of what your images portray: Give some thought to what your images may encourage others to do. Images that demonstrate good Leave No Trace practices and stewardship are always in style.

+ Give back to places you love: Invest your own sweat equity into the outdoor spaces and places you care about. Learn about volunteer stewardship opportunities and get involved in the protection of our

+ Encourage and inspire Leave No Trace in social media posts: Given the millions of social media users in the world, think of the incredible potential that social media has to educate outdoor enthusiasts – first timers to seasoned adventurers – about enjoying our wild lands responsibly.

One of the most popular posts on my blog is for Switzer Lake. Switzer Lake used to only be known by locals and JMU students who loved to kayak, camp and hike. Over the last four years the lake has gone from a known-by-locals-only spot to somewhere rowdy, drunk college kids drink, camp and trash. By no means do I think my blog post has been the sole reason the environment around the lake has been trashed and destroyed to the point that local authorities no longer allow people to camp around the lake and give out hefty fines, but it has definitely contributed. I made the mistake of assuming that everyone who wanted to explore the area was going to respect it, like I did, and because of that I opened Switzer Lake up to the public, with detailed directions on how to get there and where to find the best campsites along the lake. From this I have learned the importance of stressing to people the need to respect these areas that I and others are sharing with them. It's tough, but I don't want to say "I'm not sharing this location because I don't think you're worthy of knowing or keeping it clean" for fear that I would be turning away a responsible outdoors man/woman. Like I said, it's a tough subject but I just try to use my best judgement.


What are your thoughts?