The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 140: A Trace of Training

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

This couple spreads the word of Leave No Trace, but then they seem to leave a lasting impression. This week on The WildeBeat; A Trace of Training

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number one forty.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: Before I present this week's show, I've got a favor to ask.

STEVE: The WildeBeat is a nonprofit public service. Our mission is to educate, and inspire people to appreciate America's wild public lands. Our hope is that if you discover a wild place, explore it, and develop a love for it, you'll want to see that it's cared for. So even though these programs are free to you, they cost real money to produce and deliver. That's where you can help.

STEVE: Our job is to help you get into the wilderness. That's different than some for-profit media, who's main job is to sell some advertiser's goods and services. By supporting the WildeBeat, you'll help inspire new people to discover wild places. You'll help people to do it more safely and to minimize their impact. You'll help people discover why these special places are so important to preserve. To do all of this, the WildeBeat needs your financial support. Please listen at the end of this edition for more details on becoming a member.

STEVE: Leave No Trace is a phrase most people have heard. But when talking about the Leave No Trace principles in wilderness areas, most people I meet in the backcountry only have a vague idea of what that means. Nine years ago, the Leave No trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, a nonprofit in Boulder, Colorado, decided the best way to teach people to take care of wild places was through one-on-one, in-person training. So they they sent some of their trainers out on the road.

J.D. TANNER: We were in Nebraska, ...and a couple of the girls that were in the class came into the station with their parents. ...and while we were sitting there waiting to check out and leave we heard the girls say, "I want to have their job, and I want to do what they do."

STEVE: J.D. Tanner and Emily Ressler are this year's senior traveling trainers for Leave No Trace. I met up with them in a Redwood Grove in California's Portola Redwoods State Park.

J.D. TANNER: As the senior team for Leave No Trace, Emily and I travel on the road January until about the beginning of December. Closer to ten and a half months is our traveling time. Us and two other traveling teams are out on the road. The other two teams travel March through October. And basically what we do is we travel accross the United States, and we promote, we teach, and we train Leave No Trace skills and ethics. You might find us teaching a group of elementary school kids one day, and you might find us on Mount Rainier working with some of the mountain guides the next doing an actual training.

STEVE: So, what you're telling me is you're getting paid to do a year-long road trip and camping trip, and occasionally you get to tell people about stuff you are interested in.

J.D. TANNER: That's pretty much what my Dad thinks. Yes.

STEVE: So, why don't you tell me about a few moments that make you feel you're actually earning your keep on this job?

J.D. TANNER: We have some pretty long days whenever you take into account that we're traveling from event to event. We actually have to sit down and actually do paperwork every once in a while. It's not ...all fun and games and camping and, you know, there's a lot of times when we're traveling and seeing really great places and we don't have the time to actually get out and hike and enjoy it. We're there for an event, and then we've got to be on the road, and back to another event, maybe another state or another town, within the next day... Sometimes it feels like real work, where you don't actually got to go out and play and see everything all the time.

EMILY RESSLER: I feel like J.D. and I are always sort of on duty, I mean we're in ...the car. It's all painted up with Leave No Trace and so people are pretty curious about who we are when we roll through their town. A lot of times they'll even just be at the gas station or at a restaurant and people will come in and ask us, you know, "what's the car all about? What do you guys do?" And we're usually pretty excited at how receptive people are to Leave No Trace, and we have our educational materials right in the back of the car so a lot of times we're handing them out our information cards or giving them our web site to learn more about us.

STEVE: So, let's talk about what you went through to get into this position. I mean, was there a big competition for it? What's involved?

J.D. TANNER: Emily and I applied to be traveling trainers in two thousand and three, and we didn't get a call-back. We didn't get a letter. We didn't get anything back on it. And so, you know, we were bummed, but, you know, at the same time it was something we were interested in, so we continued to develop our skills and our education for the position and by two thousand and seven we applied again, and we got a call back. And we had an interview, and got another call back, and it went great, and so, you know, between two thousand and three and two thousand and seven, we continued to work on our education. We took a Leave No Trace Master Educator course on our own, just to learn more about the skills and ethics ourselves. And... on top of that we started to teach Leave No Trace trainer courses to students that we worked with at colleges and at universities, and just really, you know, built-up our personal knowledge and skills of Leave No Trace, and that really played well into us getting this role, and this job.

STEVE: Can you think of a time when you, either really had to bite your tongue or eventually you really got to say your piece to someone who was doing something that just really didn't agree with you?

EMILY RESSLER: Well, one of the most common impacts that we see is people feeding wildlife, either intentionally or unintentionally. Here on the coast a great example of that is the seagulls. A lot of people really don't look at those as wild animals, but they are, so whenever we're out on the beach or just enjoying the coast, it's totally common to seee folks just feeding'em. We were actually in Chicago, and they have seagulls too, not too long ago. And we had our Leave No Trace booth set up at an Earth Day festival, and right behind us there was a group of kids, and they were feeding these seagulls that were in the area... And you know, for kids that's just totally a fun thing to do. They get to get close to the wildlife and it's an interaction that, you know, they almost never get to have. So, I sat there and kind-of watched it for a few minutes and tried to figure out how I could say something without scaring the kids or offending their parents who were sitting nearby. ...So I just started, kind of picking up the popcorn that was around our tent area. They were maybe ten feet away. And pretty soon the kids kinda started noticing that, and I didn't even have to ask them, but they came over and picked it up. Later on they came over and we played this game at our booth called Bear Canister Trivia. And we have all these Leave No Trace questions in there that the kids could reach their hand into our bear canister and pull out a question... So we kind of rigged it that one they came over there's only about five kids questions that we kind-of roll through in that sort of situation, so they pulled out, "well, why shouldn't you feed wild animals?" And kids always get that one. They know that they shouldn't feed wild animals. And so they answered it pretty well that it was dangerous to feed wild animals... it's dangerous for the animals, cause it's not healthy for them, it's not part of their natural diet... And we kind of led them into some other questions about, well, are the seagulls wild animals? And I think that the kids really started to get it, that the seagulls were wild animals, even though they're common and it's something that you see all the time, so I don't know if they changed their behavior, but I think next time that they see seagulls or rabbits or something like squirrels that you see in these park settiings, ...maybe they'll think about that and realize that it's not such a good idea to feed those animals.

STEVE: Think about all the different training events you've been to and go down the seven principles, and tell me which one have you experienced people most easily getting, most easily remembering, and then which one do they most often forget and is hardest for them to remember.

J.D. TANNER: The easiest to remember without a doubt would be disposing of waste properly. It's just one of those toipics that just really gets talked about... But no matter what outdoor recreation activity you're doing or where you're doing it, trash is one of the most common impacts that we see... So that's definitely one people get, that's the one that they remember. The one that's maybe one of the toughest to remember, ...I would almost say being considerate of other visitors, would probably be the one that kind of slips people's mind. It doesn't always seem like it fits in with Leave No Trace, but it's definitely a part... You know, thinking about those other users is so important and vital to having a good time when you're outdoors and making it an experience for those other people so that they want to come back and continue to enjoy the outdoors.

STEVE: So... how can people find out when and where they might get a chance to meet you folks?

EMILY RESSLER: Well, the easiest way to do that is to visit our web site which is W-W-W dot L-N-T dot org. Click on the traveling trainer tab, and you can see traveling trainer calendars. So you can just click on "Team East", "Team West", or "Senior Team" to find out where we're going to be at. If you're interested in requesting a traveling trainer visit you can also request right off the web site. Type in a short blurb about what your event's going to be like and Dave will contact you and let you know if we're going to be in the area or not.

STEVE: We'd like to hear your questions about Leave No Trace, and we always want to hear any other comments you have about our show. You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373. You can find links to more information about the Leave No Trace traveling trainers, and an extended version of this show, on our web site.

STEVE: As a free, listener-supported service, we depend on you to help support our work. We ask you to do that by making a tax-deductible annual membership donation to our project. Membership levels start at sixteen dollars a year, and full membership is forty eight. For a limited time, become a WildeBeat member and get a weekend's worth of meals from Alpine Aire foods, books from Wilderness Press, access to bonus audio content, and more, as thank you gifts.

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Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. If we helped you get into the wilderness, could you help us do the same for others? Just click on our support link and become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Insitute.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number one forty. Thank you for listening.

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