New regional Trailhead Ambassador Program takes off!
Trailhead Ambassadors is a collaborative trailside natural resource protection education program. With the long-term goal of reducing negative human impact on public lands, staff and volunteers from organizations and agencies that already work on public lands implement these Leave Not Trace-focused programs at popular trailheads along the I-90 corridor during the busy summer season. Our partners include WA State Parks, MTS Greenway Trust, WTA, WA DNR, Mountaineers, King County Search and Rescue, Seattle Outdoors Adventure, Cedar River Watershed Education Center.
Ambassadors have been greeting hikers at trailheads with simple and fun Leave No Trace educational programs. One example is the Trash Your Pet Waste program. Stepping in dog doo is never any fun…but seeing a bag of poo alongside the trail is frustrating too! Many of these bags are left behind by well meaning folks who intend to pick up the bag on the way back to the car but forget. Sadly, wildlife can be drawn to plastic bags and this can be deadly. Sometimes they end up in our waterways.
Others of us may wonder…If wild Animals can relieve themselves in the forest, why not my dog? Here are some answers for this question...Animals who live in the wild eat in the wild, so it keeps things in balance and can even help out by breaking down and spreading seeds around. Our Pups typically eat nutrient heavy pet foods designed to give them a complete and healthy diet. This creates stool that is heavy in nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. An excess of these nutrients has the potential to create conditions that lead to algae blooms in our waterways and create an easy habitat for invasive weeds to grow. Also, dog feces can harbor pathogens that are harmful to other animals.
Hiking with a warm bag of dog poo in hand isn’t much fun. Here is a simple solution: a hard-sided pet waste container. After picking up the poo we can deposit it into our container and either put it inside our backpack or use a carabiner to clip the container to the outside of our pack. Poovault (poovault.com) has a sturdy looking container that can be purchased for $14.99. If you are like me and like to reuse items to be found at home, you may consider an old Nalgene bottle. This can be clipped to the outside of a pack. For the inside you could think about a sturdy Tupperware or plastic container. The key word here is sturdy! As Ranger Rick would say “we don’t want any messes inside our backpacks!"
Just to make sure the doggy doo container doesn’t get mixed up with our lunch container or water bottle, IATC has made "The Pet Owners Pledge" sticker to place on the reusable container. We will be handing these out at trailheads as ambassadors and events like Salmon Days. If you would like a sticker let us know and we would be happy to get one to you!