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Does Geocaching Violate Leave Not Trace.


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I opened up my April 2008 Backpacker Magazine and found an article on page 44 talking about a poll they took on this question. The article refers to us as a "passionate hiking subculture" and has a photo of a cache near Pittsburgh, a big ammo can, calling it a typical stash. When I saw this I thought from what I understand, for pittsburgh that is very very true. I couldn't find the article on line using their web site http://www.backpacker.com so I couldn't post a link to it.

 

42% YES - Saying among other things that CITO is nothing more than a Public Relations Ploy used so land managers overlook our clear cut violations of Leave No Trace principals.

 

58% NO - Saying among other things that CITO is a strongly promoted and that a well maintained geocache does nothing more than encourage visits to certain place.

 

 

Learn more about Leave No Trace at http://lnt.org/

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Bear in mind that anytime you leave the parking lots you are technically violating Leave No Trace ethics. Even the most fastidious practitioner cannot help but leave his or her mark on the land. Luckily, the land is resilient. The best we can all do is try to be conscious of our impact and not do unnecessary harm. As long as we don't leave geo-litter out there, geocaching is no more damaging than any other outdoor activity. Our caches sit in a spot for a time and then are removed, leaving no trace that they were ever there.

 

I have had this argument with some hardcore LNT people who don't think twice about "caching" supplies along a trail, but get up in arms about leaving a geocache in the same area. Each to his or her own, but I think we are all better off if we try to leave an area a little better than we found it, without a bunch of finger-pointing.

 

Edit to add:

 

The Geocacher who wrote the response from the geocaching side in the article did a great job. I meant to seek them out and send them an email for representing us all so well. He is the president of a geocaching club, so it should not be that hard to figure out. When I get back home I will look it up again and copy the text of the response here, it was great.

Edited by Monkeybrad
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...42% YES - Saying among other things that CITO is nothing more than a Public Relations Ploy used so land managers overlook our clear cut violations of Leave No Trace principals.

 

58% NO - Saying among other things that CITO is a strongly promoted and that a well maintained geocache does nothing more than encourage visits to certain place...

 

42% have given us our own geocaching conspiracy. I'm glad to be a part of it. Pretty cool though that 58% of backpacking publication thought it didn't violate LNT.

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I thought I would take the liberty of posting the Geocacher's response from the magazine here. I found it to be very well-written and a great representation of geocachers. I do not know that author, but if I ever meet him, I am buying that man a beer.

 

The response:

 

"The geocaching community strongly promotes "Cache In, Trash Out." We try to leave an area in better shape than when we found it, which can't be said of all hikers. A well maintained and hidden cache is not trash, but rather a place that has frequent visitors and is maintained by a specific person in the region. Geocaching is a great activity for all ages that attracts people to parks and forests who wouldn't otherwise visit them. We would love to see all public lands open to geocaching, but we recognize that sensitive areas need more protection. As a result, we work with local managers to set limits on cache locations. After all, we want to encourage the growth of this sport while also preserving where we play.

 

Allen Waterman

President

Iowa Geocachers Organization"

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Hate to annoy everyone, but geocaching can be very high impact. It is amazing how quickly well defined "cache trails" develop. Where soil erosion is an issue, caches should be placed close to the trail, and take advantage of natural "game" trails.

 

All that said, CITO and Leave No Trace initiatives make geocaching a net plus. Our cub scout pack did a clean-up at a nearby river parkway the week after CITO, and we had to look pretty hard for garbage (it is an urban river, so it is amazing how much junk accumulates along the banks in the spring).

 

If nothing else, it has gotten a lot of folks, including myself, into the outdoors, using parks and open lands that we would have otherwise driven by. Utilizing these wild places makes it less likely that they will get developed.

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Hate to annoy everyone, but geocaching can be very high impact. It is amazing how quickly well defined "cache trails" develop. Where soil erosion is an issue, caches should be placed close to the trail, and take advantage of natural "game" trails.

 

Not annoyed :unsure: BUT - I've placed some caches that have resulted in man-made trails (makes finding the cache easier after a while actually) and I've yet to understand how they are some major environmental disaster. Going on 500 caches and I haven't seen it. Doesn't mean it doesn't exist, but I don't think its the norm.

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Hate to annoy everyone, but geocaching can be very high impact. It is amazing how quickly well defined "cache trails" develop. Where soil erosion is an issue, caches should be placed close to the trail, and take advantage of natural "game" trails.

 

All that said, CITO and Leave No Trace initiatives make geocaching a net plus. Our cub scout pack did a clean-up at a nearby river parkway the week after CITO, and we had to look pretty hard for garbage (it is an urban river, so it is amazing how much junk accumulates along the banks in the spring).

 

If nothing else, it has gotten a lot of folks, including myself, into the outdoors, using parks and open lands that we would have otherwise driven by. Utilizing these wild places makes it less likely that they will get developed.

 

Geocaches responsible for getting us BANNED

 

Nobody is disagreeing with your premise. I've seen the damage firsthand on my better camouflaged hides. Put into perspective, the damage from poorly placed caches will never exceed the damage created by dirt bikes, and atvs ridden in closed and sensitive areas.

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It's a silly poll to fuel a silly debate. Anybody can make an argument against any hobby or sport that uses the natural resources for their playground. No matter what they say, the purist of hikers will leave a trace behind. Even boardwalks are in violation of leave no trace.

 

From my perspective, man is clearly unable to maintain the leave no trace ethic until we can invent anti-grav boots or walkways to keep us off the grounds, with anti-grav trash conveyors for the carp we leave behind.

 

Clearly the motto should be leave as little trace as you can within the bounds of your chosen sport.

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Our geocaching group has participated in 4x4 cleanups of our favorite state park. It is remarkable how every year there is less and less trash to clean up. I think that can be attributed to the concientiousness of those of us (four wheelers and geocachers alike) who use the forest on a regular basis and do not want to see it ruined and kept free and clean.

Edited by gipsie
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I am a Leave No Trace Master Educator and a geocacher. I have even done Leave No Trace presentations at caching events. Leave No Trace is a set of principals developed to reduce our impact when we participate in outdoor activities. There is nothing in Leave No Trace that is intended to discourage reasonable and ethical activities in the outdoors. I won’t list the principals here as others have referenced the web site; http:www.lnt.org. However, some things to consider… If a cache is placed in an environmentally fragile area pass on it and advise others in a log. If the “game” trails are too obvious it’s time to close the cache. Place caches only with permission. Monitor your caches. CITO. Does any of this sound familiar? Sounds like a reasonable adaptation of the Leave No Trace principals to me.

 

So, in my opinion, ethical geocaching does not violate the Leave No Trace principals. Unethical behavior does violate the principals regardless of the activity you are participating in.

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Hate to annoy everyone, but geocaching can be very high impact. It is amazing how quickly well defined "cache trails" develop. Where soil erosion is an issue, caches should be placed close to the trail, and take advantage of natural "game" trails.

 

All that said, CITO and Leave No Trace initiatives make geocaching a net plus. Our cub scout pack did a clean-up at a nearby river parkway the week after CITO, and we had to look pretty hard for garbage (it is an urban river, so it is amazing how much junk accumulates along the banks in the spring).

 

If nothing else, it has gotten a lot of folks, including myself, into the outdoors, using parks and open lands that we would have otherwise driven by. Utilizing these wild places makes it less likely that they will get developed.

 

I've been on over 800 cache hunts and have rarely seen the high impact you speak of. In the handful of spots where I did, the cache was just a few feet from a trail or parking lot, or in an already heavily abused park.

 

The few trails I have seen amounted to little more than a game trail. In only two instances did I see a compacted treadway, which can indeed lead to erosion, but in both instances these caches were within 10 feet of a parking lot. Not exactly a sensitive area.

 

I think much of the damage that people attribute to geocaching is actually pre-existing trails. I know I follow the route of least resistance when I place a cache, which means following an existing game trail or social path. I assume most other geocachers do the same. So someone comes along, sees the trail and assumes that it was caused by the geocache, when in reality the trail was there first.

 

I have found that the farther from a trail the cache is placed the lower the impact. When caches are close to trails or parking people all tend to turn off in the same spot and use the same route. When caches are placed far from a trail they use a variety of routes to the cache and the area has time to recover. I've placed over 225 caches, most well off trail and I challenge anyone (short of a professional tracker like Tom Brown) to tell me where the cache is, or even that a cache is there, by looking at area.

 

Finally the backcountry caches, which I assume are the ones most people are concerned about, simply aren't visited often enough to cause a problem. Stick a cache in the backcountry and it's lucky to see a half dozen visits a year. Often fewer. The caches that get dozens of visits are in suburban and urban areas and dog poop parks which hardly can be considered sensitive.

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Hate to annoy everyone, but geocaching can be very high impact. It is amazing how quickly well defined "cache trails" develop. Where soil erosion is an issue, caches should be placed close to the trail, and take advantage of natural "game" trails.

 

All that said, CITO and Leave No Trace initiatives make geocaching a net plus. Our cub scout pack did a clean-up at a nearby river parkway the week after CITO, and we had to look pretty hard for garbage (it is an urban river, so it is amazing how much junk accumulates along the banks in the spring).

 

If nothing else, it has gotten a lot of folks, including myself, into the outdoors, using parks and open lands that we would have otherwise driven by. Utilizing these wild places makes it less likely that they will get developed.

 

And those "cache trails" start where? Leaving a bigger and much more destructive trail that is probably maintained by the park. The only way to leave no trace is to have never existed.

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There's no such thing as Leave No Trace. Everytime we we walk a trail or enter the outdoors we are causing some kind of damage that's visible. Geocaching isn't any more destructive than hiking or many of the other activities allowed in our woods. I'd rather see people enjoying the outdoors than nobody carring. There has to be a give and take and the do gooder enviro people are on a roll. They'll shut down geocaching you watch.

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This kind of topic is exactly why I stopped buying Backpacker. I don't want to read about climate change, politics, or the latest way to properly bury your toilet paper in a scat hole 6.5487 inches deep. I do want to read about new trails, good recipes, and trip suggestions. I have better ways to spend my $5.

 

I agree with GeoRoo -- I'd rather see people take an interest in and enjoy their public land. Caching seems like a great excuse to get outside and see new sights. The outdoors is meant to be used and experienced, not just admired and protected from afar.

 

Anyway, rant/soapbox mode off.

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There's no such thing as Leave No Trace. Everytime we we walk a trail or enter the outdoors we are causing some kind of damage that's visible. Geocaching isn't any more destructive than hiking or many of the other activities allowed in our woods. I'd rather see people enjoying the outdoors than nobody carring. There has to be a give and take and the do gooder enviro people are on a roll. They'll shut down geocaching you watch.

 

My thoughts too! I bet the hikers that camp on the trails leave more behind than we do Geocaching.

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I think geo-caching does violate it, on State Land (NYS) the caches have to be replaced every 2 years, (location changed) so the landscape isn't torn up, recently a cache was placed in a public park where I cache, needless to say it looks like a herd of animals went through it, trampling down blackberry bushes enroute to finding a micro.

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I think geo-caching does violate it, on State Land (NYS) the caches have to be replaced every 2 years, (location changed) so the landscape isn't torn up, recently a cache was placed in a public park where I cache, needless to say it looks like a herd of animals went through it, trampling down blackberry bushes enroute to finding a micro.

 

And by next spring after all the local cachers have found the cache and the blackberry bushes complete their spring growth you will never be able to tell.

 

I have kinda an interesting story about social trails. The local boy scout camp here in Missouri decided that trails across the parade ground and such were causing erosion of the surrounding areas. They created an edict back in the late 80's asking people not to walk in the trails but spread out over the parade ground. By 1992 the entire parade ground was bereft of grass. This caused huge run off of rainwaters and the erosion of the surrounding hillside advanced at a startling pace. The scout camp returned to paths and allowed the grasses to regrow and our erosion problem is back to being manageable.

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I think geo-caching does violate it, on State Land (NYS) the caches have to be replaced every 2 years, (location changed) so the landscape isn't torn up, recently a cache was placed in a public park where I cache, needless to say it looks like a herd of animals went through it, trampling down blackberry bushes enroute to finding a micro.

 

NY's DEC banned geocaching pretty much since the beginning. Then they did a study on geoaching by actually visiting numerous cache sites. The verdict? The impact was negligible and their ban on geocaching was not warranted, so they lifted it.

 

The 2 year rule in NY state parks is not in response to any specific issues. It was only added as a preventative measure. I have nearly 200 active caches, most placed in the woods/backcountry. I challenge anybody other than perhaps an expert tracker to tell me there is a cache in any of the areas by looking at them.

 

As far as the issue in your park, it sounds to me like a suburban or urban park, so we're not talking about the destruction of wilderness here. And as Webscouter mentioned, I bet you go back in a year and there will be no evidence whatsoever that anybody was there.

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I think geo-caching does violate it, on State Land (NYS) the caches have to be replaced every 2 years, (location changed) so the landscape isn't torn up, recently a cache was placed in a public park where I cache, needless to say it looks like a herd of animals went through it, trampling down blackberry bushes enroute to finding a micro.

 

NY's DEC banned geocaching pretty much since the beginning. Then they did a study on geoaching by actually visiting numerous cache sites. The verdict? The impact was negligible and their ban on geocaching was not warranted, so they lifted it.

 

The 2 year rule in NY state parks is not in response to any specific issues. It was only added as a preventative measure. I have nearly 200 active caches, most placed in the woods/backcountry. I challenge anybody other than perhaps an expert tracker to tell me there is a cache in any of the areas by looking at them.

 

As far as the issue in your park, it sounds to me like a suburban or urban park, so we're not talking about the destruction of wilderness here. And as Webscouter mentioned, I bet you go back in a year and there will be no evidence whatsoever that anybody was there.

You're right in a year everything will be grown back, but for now it looks bad.
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I think geo-caching does violate it, on State Land (NYS) the caches have to be replaced every 2 years, (location changed) so the landscape isn't torn up, recently a cache was placed in a public park where I cache, needless to say it looks like a herd of animals went through it, trampling down blackberry bushes enroute to finding a micro.

 

NY's DEC banned geocaching pretty much since the beginning. Then they did a study on geoaching by actually visiting numerous cache sites. The verdict? The impact was negligible and their ban on geocaching was not warranted, so they lifted it.

 

The 2 year rule in NY state parks is not in response to any specific issues. It was only added as a preventative measure. I have nearly 200 active caches, most placed in the woods/backcountry. I challenge anybody other than perhaps an expert tracker to tell me there is a cache in any of the areas by looking at them.

 

As far as the issue in your park, it sounds to me like a suburban or urban park, so we're not talking about the destruction of wilderness here. And as Webscouter mentioned, I bet you go back in a year and there will be no evidence whatsoever that anybody was there.

You're right in a year everything will be grown back, but for now it looks bad.

That happens to any area under any activity that involves going off the beaten track. I have a geocache of which the area took a beating the first year but you'd never know it by looking at it today.

Edited by TotemLake
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