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As we write this, southwestern Colorado is ablaze. The 416 Fire, which continues to burn, has already scorched 26,000 acres. There’s also the Buffalo Fire outside of Silverthorne, which is only about 20 percent contained. Investigations into the causes are still pending, but some people believe the 416 may have been started by a spark from the railroad, and officials are saying the Buffalo Fire was human-caused. Sadly, this isn’t surprising: A study released early last year showed that 84 percent of wildfires are human-caused.
With these fires burning our beautiful landscapes and forcing people to evacuate their homes, it seems like a sensible time for this important reminder: Please be responsible when you’re out enjoying Mother Nature.
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The idea that we need to care for our environment even as we revel in it is the theme behind Care for Colorado, a new set of environmental stewardship principles recently released by Boulder’s Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (LNT) and the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO). The seven standards (an updated take on LNT’s core principles, with which many Coloradans are already familiar) are designed to encourage both tourists and locals to be better stewards while enjoying our Rocky Mountain playground.
“With these principles, we’re really giving travelers a very straightforward education about how to conduct themselves in an environment they might not be used to traveling in,” says Cathy Ritter, director of the CTO. “We didn’t want to be the person yelling down the path. We wanted to be that encouraging voice that was helping people understand how to conduct themselves when they’re here. Ultimately, our goal is to get people to embrace our outdoor ethic.”
That ethic is portrayed in a series of easy-to-follow reminders, such as always packing a reusable water bottle, staying on trails, keeping a safe distance from wildlife, and silencing your cell phone so you don’t disturb fellow outdoorsmen.
With so many new Colorado residents, those messages are just as important for locals to hear.
“Each person can play an active and meaningful role in protecting the outdoors,” says Dana Watts, executive director of LNT. “As Colorado continues to position itself—and is—this mecca for world-class outdoor recreation, this is the way that we can protect our lands for future generations.”
The partnership between LNT and CTO is the first of its kind, and it’s allowing LNT to reach more visitors before they arrive in Colorado, which is critical since planning ahead is one of the organization’s core pieces of advice.
The Care for Colorado principles can be found online and as part of the new “Are You Colo-Ready” brochure stocked at all 10 state welcome centers.
The CTO and LNT plan to continue pushing the responsible traveler message throughout the year through partnerships with other groups, such as the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association, which could, for example, incorporate some of the Care for Colorado principles into reservation confirmation emails.
“We hope we change people’s minds,” Ritter says. “When people take these practices back to their own homes or to destinations they visit in the future…that creates positive impacts potentially across the country.”