I‘ll never forget my former National Park Service boss Bob Todd surprising me one afternoon by appearing at my remote Mount Rainier outpost cabin after running seven miles on steep, switch-back trails. He gulped down a gallon of water, said a few pleasantries, and ran off.
The use of nature for recreation is ancient. The local Yakima Nation peoples held horse races in the now Indian Heaven Wilderness Area. Foot-racing, archery, and horse races were all recreation activities of the Aztecs.
Fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, skiing and biking all have become hugely popular activities, and land managers and stewards are challenged more than ever to both protect national resources from recreational impacts,while trying to allow competing uses to co-exist.
Here in the Columbia River Gorge, lessening recreational impacts to wildlife and fish is a top goal. In our area we have seen Native American fishing nets cut by wind surfers, birds of prey abandoning their nests due to hikers being in too close proximity, threats to native plants by mountain bikes making their own trails. To their credit, the Forest Service has brought all local/regional recreation groups together to seek solutions, compromises, and consensus to these natural resource challenges.
We have opened our small 20-acre parcel to anyone pursuing non-motorized recreation. While our neighbors do not wish to have hunting on our private lands,we do allow hunters to park by our home and hunt on public land lying just over the yonder hill.
We are a bit too remote for others to have discovered our oak woodland as a recreation haven, and except for the aforementioned hunting, people on the move are not an issue.
Some ideas for stewards where recreation impacts are a concern:
1. Survey your land for rare wildlife and plants and their habitats. Any dens or large raptor nests may need some seasonal restrictions and buffers.
2. Look for signs of active erosion. Add either rock to portions of your access road or trails. Water bar trail sections that collect water to keep water (i.e. mud) from developing or only allow use during the dry season(s).
3. Enlist recreation users to be part of your habitat restoration/enhancement team. There are many enthusiastic recreation groups who perform work on areas they use. Projects can include: planting native vegetation, removing exotic weeds, educational signs/kiosks, and erosion reducing activities. In addition, training these folks to identify rare wildlife and plants can help toward future planning and projects.
Recreation and conservation are not incompatible components of stewardship. Re-creation and restoration is a noble way to transform any signs of Wreck-reation.