Communicating Leave No Trace Ethics and Practices: Efficacy of Two-Day Trainer Courses
Keywords:Leave No Trace, environmental education, education evaluation, outdoor ethics.
AbstractHeavy recreational visitation within protected natural areas has resulted in many ecological impacts. Many of these impacts may be avoided or minimized through adoption of low-impact hiking and camping practices. Although “No Trace” messages have been promoted in public lands since the 1970s, few studies have documented the reception and effectiveness of these messages. The U.S. Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics develops and promotes two-day Trainer courses that teach Leave No Trace (LNT) skills and ethics to outdoor professionals, groups, and interested individuals. This study examined the change in knowledge, ethics, and behavior of LNT Trainer course participants. The respondents were a convenience sample of participants in Trainer courses offered from April through August 2003. Trainer course instructors administered pre-course and post-course questionnaires to their participants, and we contacted participants individually with a followup questionnaire 4 months after completion of their course. Scores for each of the sections increased immediately following the course, and decreased slightly over the 4 months following the course. Overall, more than half of the knowledge and behavior items, and half of the ethics items, showed significant improvement from pre-course measures to the follow-up. Age, reported LNT experience, and backpacking experience affected the participants’ pre-course knowledge and behavior scores. Younger, less experienced respondents also showed a greater improvement in behavior following the course. Trainer course participants also shared their LNT skills and ethics with others both formally and informally. In summary, the LNT Trainer course was successful in increasing participants’ knowledge, ethics, and behavior, which they then shared with others. Since many lowimpact skills taught in the LNT curriculum are supported by scientific research, LNT educational programs have the potential to effectively minimize the environmental impacts caused by outdoor recreationists. Research implications for improving LNT training and instruction are described.
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