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PostPosted: August 24th, 2013, 8:55 am 
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Joined: April 14th, 2004, 4:26 pm
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Location: Toronto
The recent thread about garbage in Algonquin quickly turned into a discussion on Leave No Trace (LNT) camping. I think some people me included were accused of elitism, bullying and being the root cause of all wilderness evil. At any rate, I think a reset is due and want to discuss my general philosophy of canoe tripping.
What follows is my view of the world, please feel free to correct any factual issues or debate any philosophical points. I am a big boy, I can take it.

The ‘wilderness’ of Canada is generally understood to mean those places where there are not permanent inhabitants. These places can be crown land, some provincial or national or maritime parks, or even private land or Indian reserves that have not been developed with permanent settlements or towns. Today, there are many competing interests for use of these wilderness areas. Recreation, resource extraction and power generation, and residential/commercial/industrial development are the four major pressures that compete for use.

The government of Canada, the provinces and the municipalities are responsible for developing management plans that will dictate the future use of various areas. The two management plans that are most relevant to canoe tripping are Forest Management Plans and Park Management Plans. When drafting these plans the government is required to consult with various stakeholders in the area. The plans are supposed to protect current users and uses of the land and waterways for the future while still allowing for economic development. Its not an easy job, and as you can imagine, forestry, mining and power generating companies have a lot more clout and lobbying dollars than canoe trippers.

Fortunately, we (canoe trippers) have two very big plusses on our side: History and the constitution. From an historical perspective, Canada has ‘always’ been travelled by canoe. Once the white man arrived, we also began to travel by canoe. While exploring the country in this way it was discovered that we have quite a few beavers. By happy coincidence there was quite an appetite for beaver felt in Europe. The political dominion of Canada was derived from a business plan to bring beaver fur to Europe. The politics of this country followed the economic plan. This business required that lakes and rivers be free from obstruction, both physical and legal, to travel by canoe. This ‘open roads’ policy was enshrined in the Navigable Waters Protection Act (please google it or search this forum to learn more about the current politics.)

The Act states briefly that all areas in Canada that are navigable by canoe at least some point in the year are legally protected against development that would render them non-navigable. The crux of this protection is that one has to prove that waterways are both current navigable AND have been used for navigation some time in the past. Once this is proven, management plans MUST (in theory anyway) accommodate for the continued future navigation of these waterways.

Here is the kicker: There must be proof that the areas have been used for navigation. Proof requires evidence. Evidence can take the form of either written documentation or physical remains of transiting canoeists. Canoes don’t leave much trace, so instead we look for remains of camping. There are a few groups in Canada, many of whom are active on this site, who have dedicated a significant portion of their lives to documenting historical use of various bits of Canadian wilderness so they may be included in the relevant management plans and protected for future generations. I have paddled with Phil Cotton and the Wabakimi project, and with Rob Haslam in his personal quest for the salvation of Geralton youth and the preservation of his neck of the woods. Jay Morris and CPAWS does a lot of good work. The Petawawa river rats and Peter Karwaki and those nuts are currently fighting the good fight for the Petawawa and Kipawa rivers respectively. Joel Kowlwaski of Wilderness Tours and the Van Wijks of OWL/MKC have gone so far as to buy and develop significant portions of the Ottawa and Madawaska river so they must be included in management plans and have made public access and egress to these rivers integral to their general business. The point of all this name dropping is two fold:

1. I would like to establish my credential as someone who has a personal interest in ‘doing the right thing’ for access and preservation of the ‘back’ and ‘front country’ wilderness areas as Glenn Hooper likes to call it (and take offence when those who just got the first scratch on their canoe suggest that my curiosity is the cause of so much destruction).

2. All of these people who are on the FRONT lines of preservation have left SIGNIFICANT TRACES of their activities on these lands. Phil and Rob cut portages and build campsites with shovels, saws and axes, the Pet and Kip crews put up signage at various points in the ‘wilderness’ WT and MKC/OWL build buildings and pave roads.

Leaving aside the white water kayaking (yes and open boating) and rafting businesses, lets focus on Rob and Phil’s work. Both of these guys regularly travel in areas that see a canoe tripper every couple of years. We know that people used to come through there more regularly in the past, but modernity has rendered canoe travel strictly to recreation. They know where the routes are through a combination of written historical record, fur trade journals for Phil and trip logs from the 60’s and 70’s for Rob. When its time to portage or camp the trail or site might be non-existant the only evidence may be:

- A Blaze cut into a living tree
- A piece of plastic (gasp) flagging tape
- An out of place burn scar
- A pile or piles of rocks (often buried under organic matter)
- Odd tree morphology- either wide branching from previous access to sunlight or chopped limbs from humans
- New re-growth under mature trees

When you get of the canoe a significant amount of time is spent looking for trace. Finding some HUMAN GARBAGE is GREAT news. Tin cans, old tools, nails in trees etc. are all evidence that this area ha been used in the past 30-300 years. This garbage is documented and presented to the management officials who are now obliged to at least recognize that this area is Navigable, and has historic use. It is now required to be at least considered for protection in the future.

While historical evidence is good, CURRENT evidence is better. I am not as altruistic or energetic as Phil and Rob. However, I try to do my part. When I travel in an area I make sure to ‘Maintain’ campsites and trails. If a site has not been used for a few years I may:
-Cut some living trees to make or maintain tent pads
-Cut some limbs of living trees to make head room or remove dangerous ones that may fall and injure people
-Make a new fire pit or move the location of the existing one
-stomp all over the place to suppress undergrowth
-burn all kinds of dead wood. This removes tinder from the campsite floor and makes it less prone to accidental fire
-Move rocks or logs as it suits me to improve the levelness of the ground or make sitting areas.
-Build a new fire in the pit get rid of the weeds.
-I may even tie some flagging tape on the trees (made of plastic) so other people know that this campsite is in use. It is not abandoned, it must be considered if someone is going to log or mine the area.

Essentially I leave as much trace of human activity as possible without “making a mess”. For the record, I do not shit in the fire pit and leave half burned feces all over the place, I do not produce a small fish processing plant at the landing spot or other non-sense.

Now dear reader, you may think: “That’s all well and good for the far north, but what about southern Ontario?” Algonquin, Killarney, etc do not need me to do this (however, they only became parks due to abundant evidence of human activity). They are operating parks, they have staff that take care of this stuff paid for by our fees and taxes. There are paid professionals who determine when to cut, clear, build or close a site for rehabilitation. However, there are lots of non-operating parks and crown land which require campsites and portages to be maintained. Magnetawan river for example, I restored 2 sites this summer in fact. Both sites were marked on historical (1990s) maps, and had plenty of evidence of human activity. Both had not been used in 3-4+ years. They were nearly “un-inhabitable” when we arrived. However, a bit of time with an axe and a saw and they were good to use for another few years.
I do not apologize for my actions of leaving a trace. In fact I am doing my part to make sure that these sites remain available for use for the next few years and do not disappear from future park plans due to lack of use.

Thanks for reading.

I like canoes

PostPosted: August 24th, 2013, 11:32 am 
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Joined: August 19th, 2001, 7:00 pm
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Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada
Great post Dan. Its refreshing to see the courage of writers and thinkers who will step up and challenge belief systems and provide perspective, with rationale. We are all lost if we are not allowed to challenge belief systems, demand the evidence, and learn new and better ways to do things.

First off, I respect all the LNT'ers for what they really want as outcomes: e.g. healthy, safe, clean campsites and drinking water, and what appears to be a healthy and "natural" ecosystem, (but more comments on "natural" later). Masses of humans using finite areas must have some commonly practiced and enforced behaviour rules, or the landscape will be trashed and ruined. I think we all share similar values in these Forums for the high qualities of outdoor experience we want to see in the front country and back country.

That is all the more reason to think through problems and issues, challenge status quo so that we can learn and do better (the adaptive management loop), instead of reverting to dogmatic belief systems that are not changeable or flexible, and may not necessarily be based on management objectives with measurable outcomes, or maybe not based on different levels of use impacts, and maybe not based on different ecosystems.

Most back country Parks have little to no maintenance, and you are on your own. The highly managed and manicured parks are the minority. In most of Canada, you will have to cut and clear things in order to travel on the land. Fishing is also incompatible with LNT, (killing and removing native animals). But fishing is a cherished and sustainable use when managed appropriately, and not sustainable if done wrong.

The #1 dogmatic "rule" or belief that simply does not fit, and is impossible in most of forested Canada’s canoe routes, parks or no parks, is the rule: "do not cut live green vegetation". Most of Canada's canoe routes do not exist in a highly managed, high rate of use, patrolled parks. Vegetation just keeps on growing, and campsites on moderate to deep soil will grow in quickly and become un-useable unless a human keeps trimming back the ingress of live plants. The only thing that slows down vegetation ingress, is when soil is compacted by humans, and human feet and tents crushing any little propagule that starts to grow in. But that won't stop shrubs and tree branches laterally growing into tent and tarp areas.

On rock barren and coarse beach sand sites, vegetation sometimes may not grow in, or else very slowly. These may stay naturally open "forever" even without human influence.

On the tundra, you may find open sites that don’t need any live vegetation removal, but in many cases you must remove some stems of dwarf birch (Betula glanulosa), which is a prolific shrub that grows everywhere there in vast abundance.

Again, I totally agree that as a general principle (not rule), in high use areas, “don’t cut live vegetation” is a really good principle, approaching a rule that I can agree with. But even in regulated wilderness zone parks like Woodland Caribou’s and Wabakimi’s interior routes, you will find many campsites that have not been used in 3 years or more. You will have to cut green vegetation, and you will have to remove blowdown in order to use the site (e.g. big fat alder shrub growing directly in the tent pad). Its an inescapable reality. The maintenance that a camper must do is the same as what parks staff do in other parks where they have more staff and more budget to visit all the sites.

Ontario cut its Junior Ranger program, which is really sad. Its now a day program. There will not be the interior canoe brigades travelling popular routes and doing maintenance. We paddlers on crown land, and in many parks, are on our own.

You will sooner or later have to make decisions to fell dangerous chicots (non windfirm trees that can fall and kill you). Ontario’s Ministry of Labour requires that these trees be felled on work sites, and the safety risk is exactly the same on recreational sites. Municipalities and Parks routinely fell dangerous chicots, as per the law. But you are on your own where the parks crews have not visited. One windstorm in one instant can create a new chicot “widow maker” anywhere.

Next posts or links I am thinking about posting, that illustrate human manipulation and good “trace” on canoe route ecosystems for the better may include:

Traditional canoe channel making in rapids: These channels are called Dawaapakinigay in Ojibway. The verb is Dawaapakinigaywin – making channels. They are talked about a lot up here with 1st Nations, and are values on traditional knowledge land use planning values maps. I paddled a beauty example this summer, so stay tuned for that post and photo.
Edit: new topic post linked here:

Blowdown on campsites: I have some beauty photos of recent clean up of blown in sites that restored the site, requiring full on trace techniques and outcomes.

Low consumptive open fire methods: I was thinking of doing a series on small cooking fire methods that I have found use very little firewood, maybe 10 times or less wood compared to how some fire pits are designed with those terribly high fire grates that the government installed back in the bad old days. There are better ways to manage campfires.

Firewood conservation and stick stoves:
For really conserving firewood supplies on campsites while still enjoying the use of fire, sticks stoves provide a way that uses orders of magnitude less wood than open fires. Use of stick stoves deserves some discussion in the human impact trace/no trace discussions. And stick stoves are fun!

My YouTube channel:

PostPosted: August 24th, 2013, 1:40 pm 
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I believe that "Leave No Trace" deserves clarification. Rules are not a part of LNT. Rather 7 principles are. They are intended to be applied to different ecosystems and management areas, by those managing or caring for those areas. Leave No Trace is intended to present new users of an area with the best practical practices for those areas.

Admittedly, one can choose to react to the very term “Leave No Trace” as if it were a “rule”. And, most people will recognize that as soon as one steps foot into an environment, one will inevitably impact it in some manner.

However, “Leave No Trace” is simply the branded name of seven principles .. which are incidentally shared by most caring users of natural environments. Having these seven principles recognized internationally under the name of “Leave No Trace” does not make it a cult or a fanatic religion. Rather that recognition helps to spread awareness that there are common principles to be shared ...

Plan Ahead and Prepare
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave What You Find
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Respect Wildlife
Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Each unique management and ecological area deserves the development of principles for its care and the availability of a learning tool for that area's users who may not have the benefit of an education in ecological matters.

Simply listing the regulations and fines which apply to a natural area will only do so much to encourage “best practices”.

However, by addressing the experience of using a specific natural area, Leave No Trace tries to promote the skills and ethics which will best preserve that area's unique values.

And yes, the unique values of a heavily maintained Natural Environment Park are very different from those of a Wilderness Park, as the unique values of a Wilderness Park are very different from those of true wilderness.

PostPosted: August 24th, 2013, 2:59 pm 
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Location: Geraldton, Ontario Can
Much of this comes back to the debate we have had on here before as to what constitutes wilderness. Is it remoteness and difficulty of access? Is it the number of people who travel through the area each year? Is it the animal species? I don't know, the world is full of contradictions.

In the time I have been in the North, I have seen canoe routes that were only accessible by air or canoe fall within Forest Management Plans, and roads have been built that intersect them at key points. And yet, despite this road access, there are still far fewer people travelling these routes now than there were 100 years ago. 100 years ago, human impact was considerable on these routes, because they needed them for transportation.

However, that impact was, and is still, minimal compared to the huge amount of timber being cut and dragged out of the bush daily. It's a well kept secret right now, but the forest industry is going strong in the area I live in.

When you see a mile and a half portage that has existed for hundreds of years clear cut, your perspective on twig stoves, camp fires and a little suds in the lake changes.

People like Phil Cotton are working to try to bring about Province wide standards for the forest industry and canoe routes. He's not trying to save the world, he's trying to save canoe routes. People who trip primarily in parks are probably not aware of the efforts of people who struggle with FMP's and Mining Companies and dam builders on Crown Land, but they should be. It only takes one bureaucrat with a pen to change a park designation.

So this brings me back to my original question about wilderness. Logging companies work very fast now, and after they leave an area, it is replanted and begins a grow back. Very few people ever go to these places, except the odd moose hunter or fisherman. These areas that have been cut, are they still wilderness?

Once in a while canoeists from down south accompany me and the high school kids on trips. They are shocked by the things we do. We chainsaw portages, cut poles for tents, cook over open fires, dry our wet cloths over large fires, create campsites out of nothing....the list goes on. I try to explain to them that there is an older tradition that predates LNT values. It's the tradition of people who use the land...we hunt, we fish, we use the trees. By the end of the trip, after we've carved out our seventh or eight campsite out of nothingness, and created something that will be re-usable again, they get it.

PostPosted: August 24th, 2013, 7:38 pm 
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I agree with Dan and Rob on this, trying to maintain our access to rivers and lakes is paramount, and without trails marked and campsites cleared, we have no proof.
the Historic routes and access are very important in the fight to maintain access to these areas.
But I think well used areas of P.Parks are a little different.
There is a romantic fantasy with visiting Parks like Algonquin and the heavy use deserves discussion and education to preserve it best as possible. Most of the areas I visit do not have that "well traveled" problem. I too have cleared a "few" campsites and portages in an effort to raise visibility.
And the NWPA as it use to exist .... well those laws no longer apply until someone takes the risk and forces the issue through the courts. Minor Waters rules still have not gone through the process of identification. And that has been a long frustrating experience. (And I have been involved since the Credit river case)
We need paddlers/group (all outdoors people) to keep accessing all known routes for what ever activity.
But showing them how to have the least amount of impact on these areas is important also.
Since we have recently lost an easy overnight access point to QEWLPP, it brings home the point of respecting the areas we visit. And I know it was not paddlers that brought this on, it has been building for a long time, but we get lumped in with the bad folk. (because we park in the same areas)
When I make and mark the camp sites in QEW, I make sure there is a area of ample wood and areas where you can put in thunder boxes or a good cat hole. (or holes)
There is always places for individuals,(or multiple passing groups) but groups are different.
A popular area can be easily overwhelmed.
The question is how can you bring our insight into maintaining sustainability to the areas we love to visit. The hard to access areas for the most part do not seem to be a problem.
I see only education for those new to tripping as an answer.

Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho

PostPosted: August 24th, 2013, 9:56 pm 
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Joined: April 14th, 2004, 4:26 pm
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Location: Toronto
Its Saturday night. My adorable diaper filling machine has gone to bed. I have a glass of 14yr old Oban beside me. I am gazing at a $14,000 piece of paper with a UofT crest that says I learned something about philosophy a few years ago. So, why not see if I can figure out why we have a community that all cares about the bush. We all want it to be ‘clean’, ‘protected’, ‘accessed’, yet this idea of LNT has become such a flashpoint. Usually when things get heated its because feelings get hurt. So if LNT is just short hand for 7 simple principles that are all nice and fluffy why are feelings getting hurt? Why have I been thinking about it all day and am I writing about it on Saturday night?
Now, to a man with a hammer the whole world is a nail. I am (or was) a philosopher so here goes…

I think there are few words and concepts that we are using that need to be defined and examined a bit more in depth and once we do that, the source of the conflict will become clear and we can agree to disagree and go back to boring old epoxy threads. These words are ‘Wilderness’ and ‘wrong’.
In my previous post, I defined wilderness as an area that is largely void of settled population. This is mostly true on a superficial level, however it is more than that. It needs to be in a ‘natural’ state. Detroit does not really count as wilderness in the sense that we are talking. So what is a natural state? This is where we start to diverge as a community. Most city dwellers think of a natural state as how the world would be if it were “un-touched by humans”. The implications of this are pretty profound. This implies that once humans touch the world it is no longer ‘natural’ but something else. Some words that get used are ‘artificial’, ‘civilized’, ‘developed’, ‘disturbed’, ‘altered’, etc… some of these words have positive connotations some are negative. ‘Developed’ can swing either way depending on context. What this means is that humans are the agency that takes a natural state and makes it unnatural. This implies that humanity and people are not natural.

In classical western philosophical thought this is not really a revolutionary concept. In the Mosaic (ie from Moses, Jewish-Christian-Muslim) tradition this separation from nature occurred at the time of eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge. Humanity became aware of right and wrong, and as such then became responsible for acting in accordance with that knowledge. Thus what separates humans from nature is the knowledge and responsibility to act in accordance with our innate sense of morality. Our actions are then to be judged against our conscience at some point in the future. Even if you are not religious, or anti-religious or whatever, if you are reading this and speak English or French as a first language, you probably have this assumption built deep into your psyche.

So what does this have to do with canoe tripping? Well, ‘Wilderness’ canoe tripping is the act of taking our profaned, fallen self into a pure and pristine state of nature, residing there for a temporary time, then leaving. There is a desire to bring and leave as little trace of our filthy destructive self behind and to imbibe in the holy goodness that is untouched nature. I am intentionally using religious language here . It is a metaphor, but it is how MANY on this site feel about their trips. I am willing to bet that a good reason Plexus was so disturbed by what he saw was because he wanted to visit Eden and saw that it had been profaned. He judged what he saw against his conscience and found it to be beyond simply wrong, it was BAD, immoral, un-ethical etc.

Note: I am not implying that Plexas is religious in the conventional sense. I do not know him I have never met him and he has never met me. I am simply enjoying good scotch and armchair philisophizing…

In this world view, Leave no Trace is obvious. We should leave nature in the state that is well… natural. Those that cannot see this simple truth hath not taken him into their heart…

Enter Hoop Wildlife eco-system biologist – atheist as they come. For him the very concept of wilderness doesn’t really make sense. Sure, no people live there ANYMORE. But they used to. They burned understory, collected rice, hunted moose, moved rocks so they could avoid portaging a canoe full of rice or moose carcass. They continuously altered the landscape to make it less buggy in the summer and more sheltered in the winter. They removed vegetation to encourage game. They built gill nets and fish ponds and all kinds of cool stuff. But they don’t do this anymore. The entire culture has collapsed.

Wilderness is what we are getting when all their hard work is being undone by the unrelenting forces of nature. So was the world better when these people were altering the landscape or is it better now that they have stopped and nature can ‘reclaim’ it? How come when White people touch the world it is profaned, but when these people do it it is still natural or at least acceptable? Many have claimed in the past that perhaps ‘la belle savauge’ has not yet fallen. This argument does not get stated explicitly anymore, but it is still present in our psyche. How else to explain native exemptions from hunting and fishing regs that are designed to ‘protect’ our natural environment? “Well” says our non-politically correct super-ego “the Indians are really part of nature in a way that we are not, so anything they do including hunting calves out of season is de-facto natural”. If the white man does it, hunting is wrong unless accompanied by lots of guilt assuaging regulations.

Well… this whole line of reasoning is racist and offensive. It is completely unsuitable for a government employed scientist. Thus we are not going to pursue it. So then, what is this wilderness business? Wilderness, says the biologist, is the eco-system in perfect self sustaining balance. Inputs of carbon are balanced by growth of trees, dead animals feed living ones, and burned forests are habitat for moose and so forth. When things are in balance, this is good. When they are out of balance, this is bad. In this world view, trace leaving is only bad and wrong if the natural system cannot absorb it. Innocuous things like soap and fish guts at camp sites do not materially affect the grand system so they are not worth getting upset over. Earthworms, logging, climate change, invasive fish species threaten the whole system. These things are what we need focus on.

So for Hoop, wilderness is where people are not in control of natural processes. Wastewater is filtered by rocks and sand not weeping tiles and treatment plants. Garbage is converted to smoke and then absorbed by trees. Small amounts of plastic are really just another hydrocarbon like wood, so its not a big deal to burn it. As soon as people take over ‘ecosystem services’ we are no longer in the wilderness and a different set of morality applies.
We may have a garden in ‘not’ wilderness. Exotic species may be introduced, and its not ‘wrong’. It doesn’t matter because irrigation has replaced the hydrologic cycle. We can build houses of synthetic material because if they break they can be disposed of by the garbage cycle and replaced by the material cycles (delivery) on trucks or trains. Right and wrong in civilization is judged against whether something promotes or detracts from an harmonious society. Both these systems can get along beside each other until one threatens the other. Cities are fine, until we start emitting WAY too much carbon and the wilderness cannot absorb it all. Anthropogenic climate change is bad and evil and all things unholy. How can we as a natural species act in such a way that completely undermines the natural processes that sustain us? The judgement of God will be the extinction of humanity by the plagues of pollution and climate change.

OK…. Enough of that.

What does this have to do with LNT and fights on CCR?

LNT is a philosophy that promotes minimizing human impact on natural areas. It is a west-coast import that developed in the alpine community. No native community evolved in the alpine areas of western Canada. Once you are above the treeline there is no distinction from nature as God created it and nature sustained by ‘unfallen’ people. Every modification to the environment there is permanent. Poop and TP do not biodegrade, food scraps get buried in snow and ice forever. All human traces are permanent until someone cleans it up. Trees that are up there take eons to grow. Burning them for fuel consumes a thousand years of growth for 20 min of heat. It is therefore ‘natural’ to want to limit our impact in these areas so future generations can experience them in the same state that we are privileged. (I avoided the word pristine intentionally)
The principles of LNT are “mother nature” so to speak. Who wouldn’t want experience an area that was completely natural? In the first post of this thread I explained why the PRACTICES of LNT in eastern Canada are complete poppycock. I won’t repeat them here.

So why the fights? Aside from one member accusing me of
people thinking about themselves, convenience and throwing caution to the wind. the question probably should not have even been asked as its pretty obvious what you would need to do with diapers.

backcountry camping is not about conveniences. its the opposite. people just dont seem to want to accept that backcountry camping MEANS inconveniences (and some people like myself look forward to lack of conveniences when out there)

There is a basic difference in understanding of what the wilderness is. For some it is a place that is pure like Eden Unspoiled and holy. To intentionally or through carelessness leave a blight on that place is offensive to an innate sense of morality. To burn a diaper is to offer an unworthy sacrifice of plastic and feces. For others the wilderness is a confusing concept. What the backcountry is however, is a place where natural biological processes reign supreme and people maintain the landscape to permit and promote travel and recreation. Humans are free to act as they choose so long as the grander integrity remains intact. Once activity threatens the system as a whole, an offence has been committed that is worth getting worked up over. Thus the LNT crowd sees that micro actions impute disrespect and the science or traditionalist crowd sees the micro acts as PART of the natural process, the problems arrive from MACRO actions that threaten the very fabric of nature.

Thanks again for reading.

I like canoes

Last edited by Dan. on August 26th, 2013, 6:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

PostPosted: August 25th, 2013, 8:55 am 
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Location: a bit south ofWinnipeg
I think you'll find that the reason aboriginal people are allowed to hunt and fish with out licenses is due to a little thing called Treaty.

Jared Diamond caused quite a fuss when he reminded folk that aboriginal peoples had wiped out the original horses from the american continent, they were just as capable of screwing up the environment as indo-europeans.

For an interesting discussion of some of these ideas see Thomas King "The Inconvenient Indian" Dead Indians, Live Indians and Legal Indians!

Also, any biologist worth their name hasn't believed in the idea of ecosystems being in balance for many years. Systems swing and flip wildly. They can head off in completely new directions following a disturbance. Please don't interpret this as me saying that cutting a simple campsite will cause wholesale system collapse.

A useful discussion even if muddied by zealots on both sides!


PostPosted: August 25th, 2013, 9:05 am 
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Joined: April 14th, 2004, 4:26 pm
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Location: Toronto
Yes. Agreed re: balance. However the ethics of the swing is dependant on the cause of the disturbance.

Maybe balance is the wrong word. Perhaps 'complex chaotic but not random cyclical processes' is better? Kind of a mouthful though. Can we just use balance as shorthand?

I am setting up a bit of a strawman argument re first nations. I dont actually beleive what is written, however it is one possible logical errorneous extension when trying to define 'wilderness' in eastern canada. The point is that wildrness itself is an artificial concept. When trying to rigidly define it for the sake of applying a unique moral code to it, we end up with some absurd results.

By unique moral code i mean: why is it ok to plant heirloom garlic in your garden but not in the wild?

I like canoes

PostPosted: August 25th, 2013, 10:45 am 

Joined: January 22nd, 2005, 12:16 pm
Posts: 4044
Location: Toronto
Robert Perkins ,
speaking of the barrens (I believe) said something like
If you truly love it, you won't go anywhere near it, for your very presence diminishes it.


A literal mind is a little mind. If it's not worth doing to excess, it's not worth doing at all. Good enough isn't.  None are so blind as those who choose not to see. (AJ)

PostPosted: August 25th, 2013, 12:22 pm 
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Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada
The government of Canada, the provinces and the municipalities are responsible for developing management plans that will dictate the future use of various areas. The two management plans that are most relevant to canoe tripping are Forest Management Plans and Park Management Plans.
Over the past decade, The Wabakimi Project has focussed on canoe route conservation through two separate, but intrinsically connected, activities.

Our first (and initial) approach--already acknowledged in this thread--has been to get out into the field each summer to rehabilitate and document historically-significant canoe routes whose earlier existence has been verified through exhaustive research.

On a related note, The Wabakimi Project has participated in the planning exercises for every Forest Management Plan (FMP) in the province as well as the current Management Plan under development for Wabakimi, Kopka River & Whitesand Provincial Parks. These activities are extremely time-consuming and require much research. Since public consultation periods are brief, it is necessary to monitor the Environmental Board Registry (EBR) on a weekly basis in order to be aware of the status of the planning processes for parks and forests and to have enough time to thoroughly prepare a submission.

There are currently +40 forest management units (MU's) in Ontario. Each FMP has a 10-year lifespan before it must be re-written. Along with the mandatory Interim Review during Year Five, these are the only two scheduled opportunities for the public to negotiate for improved protection of values such as canoe routes, portages, campsites, viewscapes, sites of natural interest, etc. Over the past decade, The Wabakimi Project has successfully won major concessions in this regard.

Our involvement in the planning and review of each FMP focusses on 4 fronts:

1. addition of missing canoe routes and correcting errors on the values maps for each FMP;
2. improved protection of canoe route shorelines;
3. improved protection of portages; and,
4. improved protection of traditional campsites.

MNR foresters and logging companies have been very supportive of our efforts, especially when we offer to follow up by going into the field to ground truth our claims of the existence of these values and to report on their respective locations and conditions. For example, when we first got involved, very few FMP's included any prescription for the protection of portages other than a caution for forest harvesters not to leave debris on the trail or to make any improvements to the trail. Now, 23 FMP's have a dedicated prescription (called an "Area of Concern" or AOC) for the protection of recognized portages that includes most or all of the following conditions:

- an average 30m no-cut forested buffer zone on each side of the trail
- a limit of a single road crossing of the trail
- narrowing of the road right-of-way (ROW) for the width of the buffer zone
- road crossing must be perpendicular to the trail
- signage where necessary to advise motorists of potential pedestrian crossing
- road bed level must not restrict or impede pedestrian crossing of the road
- no parking, landing or aggregate extraction permitted within the buffer zone

When it comes to protection of canoe route shorelines, opinions vary widely. Recent implementation of the Stand & Site Guide permit cut-to-shore practices under certain circumstances. Further, many foresters argue that any shoreline reserve in the boreal forest--no matter how wide--will ultimately collapse and might as well be cut so it can regenerate naturally. What gets missed is the fact that campsites along these very shorelines are a vital component of a canoe route and need special consideration for their own protection.

Campers need shade and adequate room for tent and tarp sites as well as for the disposal of human waste. In light of pressure to eliminate no-cut shoreline reserves, The Wabakimi Project has begun a campaign to promote a separate semi-circular campsite AOC up to 200m measured from the main fire ring. Already, 4 new FMP's have adopted this prescription.

PostPosted: August 25th, 2013, 1:25 pm 
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Joined: February 19th, 2004, 9:53 pm
Posts: 1451
Location: Atlanta
I've never had occasion to camp at a site that hasn't been "traced" before, though most such sites have been in wilderness areas, by any definition.

All I can do is try to avoid leaving any new traces, and maybe too remove or erase some of the existing damage.

If I camped in a virgin site, I would be doing so out of necessity. I would do my best not to leave the site looking "damaged" to a possible next visitor, but I don't know if leaving no trace at all would be possible.

This has seemed like a great discussion, though "Leave No Trace" has to be applied differently in most areas of the States.

PostPosted: August 25th, 2013, 2:50 pm 

Joined: July 28th, 2008, 9:29 pm
Posts: 327
Location: Winnipeg
Well, I do some of the usual things and some a little less so. I do clear portages if needed...which is pretty much every time I am on them. We cleared 8 or 9 on the way to Leaf Lake this year...holy blowdowns Batman. Yepp, we leave orange plastic tape on takeouts to guide others, and us too cuz my memory is not what it used to be. I have been known to blaze trees... works really well.

Hoop...I have seen the evidence of channels in some rapids that we take and I am guilty of that process as well. It seems like common sense to move the damn rocks if you are going there often enough. I have yet to win in rock paper boat.

I do use existing sites though. They have been there a long time and are most likely to be the best site in the area already.
I am anal ( forgive the pun) about camp hygiene and regularly pack out more than I take in. Unless you count a few lost cartridge cases and the myriad of fish stringers that I seem to leave behind. If you find one its probably mine.
Lately I have taken to building rather intricate fire pits...smallish ones.

All of this is my personal reality, your mileage may vary. I do not expect no trace at all...I actually groove on finding the odd interesting item and pondering how it came to be there. Discarded airboats seem fairly common in MB.


PostPosted: August 25th, 2013, 3:31 pm 

Joined: April 6th, 2007, 8:42 pm
Posts: 421
This is a healthy discussion about important ideas. The tone is civilized and polite. Thanks to all who have contributed so far.

PostPosted: August 25th, 2013, 6:29 pm 
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Joined: December 19th, 2006, 8:47 pm
Posts: 9062
Location: Rattlesnake Pond ME
I've just been reading posts all weekend. Some very well thought out points of view. I am enjoying Dan's posts in particular. Some time ago on another forum we got involved in a rather heated and rather unfortunate discussion over removing beaver dams.

Such a practice is illegal in at least one state. And you can realize that in that urban state there is good reason to encourage the beaver. If there are consequences to dams there is some bureaucrat to handle it(slow as the process may be)

The following summer I had the opportunity to curse beaver. Leave a Trace? Heck, yes.. I cursed as I removed and kicked at twigs that had caused a backup of two feet of water over the road near Red Lake.

Different places, different strokes.

PostPosted: August 25th, 2013, 9:05 pm 
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Joined: August 5th, 2013, 6:48 am
Posts: 180
This July a friend and I paddled for two weeks in Ontario's Opasquia Provincial Park. Many would think that we were really out in the wilderness. IMO we are all really late to the party to even dream of that being so. We researched a lot and did come up with some notes on one map. The maps and Google or Bing images provided our only clues to what we would actually encounter. Once on the water we were able to do a 200 k. trip with 17 short portages. Most of the portages were in good shape but never flagged or blazed. Brush was never trimmed to give a hint where the portage might start. This was because Opasquia is a land that is still used today and the people using it need trails to transport themselves and harvested game and fish.

Now I have a decision to make. Do I keep this route and all the details of how we pulled it off a secret? Fortunately for those you that have been looking at that area and want to go there I plan on putting the info out there. I will do this because I strongly believe that God gave us this earth to enjoy. We do have the responsibility to be proper stewards of what he has given us.


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