Ah, nature. Whether it’s slapping us in the face with cold and snow or flooding our roadsides with water, Westerners will take an opportunity to be outside – no matter what the weather.

Our federal lands – public lands – are there to enjoy year-round (of course, check your local park or forest for information). However, in our zeal to memorialize the moment, we often overstep our bounds or do things in the name of “memories” that are harmful.

In the name of love, here are a few key dos and don’ts if you and your loved one (or even just you and your dog) take to the forests this Valentine’s Day, long weekend, or any day.

 

DO!

  1. Obey trail systems, signs, and markings. Safety is key – no photo is worth a life.
  2. Call your park or forest to see what’s closed, or if there are areas deemed unsafe. From the snow to the rain, trails or popular areas may be closed.
  3. Minimize distractions. Enjoy the moment with yourself or your loved ones.
  4. Bring good gear (and maybe a picnic!). Make sure you’re ready for forests in the West – they can be dry, wet, or any combination.
  5. Practice responsible wildlife management. Shoot the photo, or hunt, or fish, but ensure you’re adhering to the letter of the law and have all applicable documents on you. Ensure you’re practicing your specific recreation in a safe and responsible way.
  6. Say thanks to the Forest Service, BLM or other staff if you see them. They’re out working so you can enjoy these beautiful lands. They may even recommend a good view or something unique for you to see!

DON’T!

  1. Go off the trail. Stepping off trail can be dangerous to native flora and fauna – not to mention there are reasons for the signage and specific trail systems. If you’re out hiking old logging roads or just wandering, make sure you set a time for a return and let people know where you’re going and your trip timeline.
  2. Carve, pick, or in any way put your “mark” on nature. Sure, carving your initials may seem cute, but it’s harmful to trees. Leave the flowers, the keepsakes, etc. and satisfy yourself with photos.
  3. Bring it in, pack it out. If using a trail system, obey pet laws and use receptacles. Otherwise, obey the principles of Leave No Trace so others can enjoy it, too.
  4. Feed animals.

 

 

On this day (and weekend) of LOVE, thanks for helping the forest products industry be responsible stewards of the forest and public lands we LOVE.