Philip M. Mullins

Educational management in the form of Leave No Trace (LNT) has been hugely successful at establishing new social/environmental norms, altering visitor behavior, mitigating direct damage, and maintaining particular ecological and aesthetic realities within protected and recreation areas. From its American roots, LNT has spread round the world through a sophisticated social marketing campaign and training program, and has been adopted by many state agencies as official policy/practice. Good reasons exist for its adoption (e.g. overcrowding, cumulative impacts). Yet, this ‘environmental ethic’ is firmly rooted in wilderness ideals that assume (and then reinforce) a separation between nature and humanity, ignores the work and impacts (positive and negative) needed to establish and maintain protected areas and facilitate outdoor recreation experiences, and forgoes deeper social critique by embracing consumerism. Thus, LNT is limited and conflicted in its ability to address different and larger socioecological realities and aspirations within conservation and outdoor recreation movements. This presentation reviews some of the limitations, critiques, and potentially-problematic hidden curriculum within LNT, and suggests that locally-responsive ethics and practices that position visitors and inhabitants as socioecologically engaged and responsible might help advance sustainable practices and lifestyles. I provide a participatory ecological ethic as an example, which I hope encourages critical and creative discussion, understanding, and practice within outdoor recreation, nature-based tourism, and their management in support of social and ecological imperatives that cross protected area boundaries.