The principles of minimal impact bushwalking all aim to reduce any kind of evidence of your journey through the bush. These simple principles are based on research and commonsense behaviours that are easy to implement and significantly reduce your “footprint”.
Minimal impact techniques and behaviours aim to firstly limit the amount of damage that occurs and if the damage is significant then localise the damage so that only a small area is effected.
The concepts behind minimal impact bushwalking techniques are universal and can be applied to any environment. However the techniques and behaviours may change when visiting a few specific environments. The techniques change due to two main factors
- the ability for the environment to resist damage (hardiness) and
- the ability to recover from damage (recoverability).
The hardiness of an environment will vary on many factors, but you can image that generally bear rock is more hardy and resistant to damage from walkers boots than a soft green moss.
The recoverability of part of an environment will again vary on many factors, and some environments will never fully recover from some damage. You can image that fast growing plants in a rain forest will recover from damage faster than their slower growing dessert cousins.
When looking at the hardiness and recoverability of specific elements of an environment you will need to consider a wide gamut of potential impacts. Some such impacts will include,
1. Sudden pressure from a hikers boot
2. The medium term pressure from a campsite
3. The introduction or spreading of disease
4. The effect of a camp fire
5. The leaving behind of rubbish
6. The creation of tracks
It is common practice for park managers to deliberately damage an environment to increase the hardiness of an area in the hope of reducing the overall size and extent of damage cause by visitors. This includes the construction of tracks, huts, tent platforms, toilets, bridges and fire places. Such facilities are installed using the same minimal impact principles. Experience shows having a well defined track minimise the number of new tracks that are formed as does the use of tent platforms significantly reduces the damage to low lying plants.
These principles do not only apply to helping the local environment when bushwalking, but the same principles can be applied to minimise the impact that we have on the earth as a whole so that we reduce the footprint that we leave for our children.