Summer season is here! We hope that means you’ll be making more visits to your local, state and national parks. With higher visitation numbers comes more impact to park resources, so here are 7 simple ways you can visit parks responsibly to minimize your footprint.15052195535_9936d70c23_z.jpg

Photo by Greg Pederson, USGS,  at Glacier National Park

1. Let Animals Be

It’s perfectly acceptable to take out your camera and snap a photo for memories sake, but “photographers are reminded to use telephoto lenses” and make sure to do this from the required distance. Fish and Wildlife have policies in place outlining the distance you should keep from animals. According to the National Park Service, “feeding, touching or disturbing” animals within 50 yards or 150 feet is illegal. If you need to get a closer look, use the zoom feature on your camera, spotlighting is prohibited.

2. Don’t Feed the Animals

Some foods are harmful for animals. Leaving behind food scraps that animals can access after you’re gone is also prohibited. As animals become comfortable approaching human occupied spaces for food, they become more dangerous and less predictable. Read more on what to do if you run into a bear.

3. Leave only Footprints

Take your trash with you if there’s no designated park trash bin nearby. Leave nothing behind, not even fruit peelings! Some biodegradable foods don’t break down in certain environments, so even orange peels and banana skins have to go. Take a trash bag with you in case there are no trash bins nearby. Visit Leave No Trace to find out about additional ways you can minimize your footprint during park visits.

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Photo by Joshua Tree National Park (Pictured: Leave No Trace’s Seven principles)

4. Keep Noise Levels in Check

The parks are there for you to enjoy. However, if you’re going with a large group, be mindful that you’re in the park animals’ home, and disruptive noises or behavior are not welcome. This applies to electronic devices such as radios and cell phones as well as loud conversation.

5. Respect Closed-Off Areas

Any areas that are marked as closed off to the public are restricted for a reason, so please read and obey the signs! Some areas may be restricted to preserve wildlife habitats seasonally such as this area that closes off sections of parks that provide food for bears about to enter hibernation. Since food is scarce already, please obey the signs the signs and allow the animals to eat in their natural habitat.

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Photo by Michael Theis at Australia’s Purnululu National Park

6. Don’t Remove Natural Resources

Everything has its role and place in the parks, so please don’t take anything with you! The wildflowers feed the bees, the rocks provide cooling shade for burrowing bugs underneath, and the falling leaves must decompose to return nutrients to the ground.

7. Visiting with Furry Friends

If you’re traveling with pets, be aware that they are only allowed in designated developed areas. And of course, you must clean up after your pet. Detailed pet rules can be found at https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/pets.htm

For more detailed rules and regulations visit nps.gov

Happy Travels, Park Visitors!