In a nutshell, minimal impact is about striving consistently to reduce the damage we cause to the natural environment in our outdoor pursuits. As well as following good practice in our recreational activities, it’s also about behaving responsibly with consideration to others, respecting seasonal and occasional restrictions to areas in the longer-term interests of the landscape, flora, fauna and birdlife.
It is, of course, also the weight of numbers that can affect an area. In loving it we set the seeds for destroying what we cherish. The popular motto ‘Leave nothing but footprints’ is perhaps better revised these days to ‘Leave nothing but shadows’. As far as litter goes, then there is no acceptable alternative to ‘Pack it in, pack it out’. ‘Good practice’ meaning going beyond the theory of caring to the practical implementation of strategies to protect and conserve the land.
With care and consideration the outdoor environment can soak up a great deal of use by varied groups of enthusiasts. When areas suffer from over-use, thoughtlessness and lack of consideration, it allows arguments to be made to limit access and control numbers by regulation as well as, of course, causing damage to ecosystems. Good practice allows the land an opportunity to recover even from the weight of numbers.
Whatever your focus on the outdoors, play your part in conserving, defending and enjoying the landscapes we love.
To access the Countryside Code –http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/enjoying/countrysidecode/default.aspx
For the situation in Scotland, check out the Scottish Outdoor Access Code – http://www.outdooraccess-scotland.com.
Access and conservation go hand in hand and are key elements of the work of the BMC (http://www.thebmc.co.uk) in England &Wales and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland. (http://www.mountaineering-scotland.org.uk).