Friday, February 16, 2018

Outdoor Conservation Ethics Through Time

Mankind has been dependent on his surrounding environment since the beginning. He must be careful to use it sparingly for it it fails he likely will also. Various people through out history have managed their surrounding environment in many creative ways, some effective, others perhaps even more damaging. Each time man has failed to manage the surrounding environment upon which he depends, it has led to valuable lessons painfully learned. These lessons are often transmitted to others in wise proverbs, ethical codes, protective laws, memorable sayings, and even imaginative songs and poems. Perhaps the best known incarnation of conservation language today is the Leave No Trace Center's 7 Principles. Before these were canonized in the early 1990's various people and groups tried to educate others on conservation ethics. Here is a list of memorable and concise quotes and codes from various sources. Please enjoy and share these with others!

Beginning of Time


"God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28 (WEB) 


The above verse records the first command given to Adam and Eve after they were created. It describes their role as caretakers and stewards of God's creation with a duty to cultivate and multiply the natural world. The theme of God's followers as stewards runs throughout scripture and did not stop after the fall. Read more about it here.

1700 B.C. (Circa)


"Tear not up by the roots the Kakambira tree: destroy thou all malignity."

This quote comes from a verse (VI-48-17) of the ancient Hindu text the Rig Veda Samhita translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith 1896. Throughout this and several other sacred Hindu texts are commands and requests to protect grass, trees, animals, water, and the entire natural habitat from destruction and pollution. The natural world holds a high place in this ancient religion being itself divine. View here and read more quotes about the environment from Hindu texts here.

1400 B.C. (Circa)


"That each day I may walk unceasingly on the banks of my water, that my Soul may repose on the branches of the trees which I planted, that I may refresh myself under the shadow of my sycamore."


The above quote is part of an inscription on an ancient Egyptian tomb. The translator is unknown but the quote comes from Branches of the Tree of Life: The Collected Poems of Abiodun Oyewole 1969-2013 by Abiodun Oyeole published 2014 by 2Leaf Press pg. 13. View here.

630 A.D. (Circa)


"Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire,"


The above quote is by the Islamic Caliph Abu Bakr. Source: Aboul-Enein, H. Yousuf; Zuhur, Sherifa (2004), Islamic Rulings on Warfare, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, Diane Publishing Co., Darby PA, p. 22, ISBN 9781584871774




"By felling the trees which cover the tops and sides of mountains, men in all climates seem to bring upon future generations two calamities at once; want of fuel and a scarcity of water."

The above quote was made by Baron Alexander von Humboldt in , Aimé Bonpland and  Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America: During the Years 1799-1804 pg. 9 published 1852, Vol. 2, 9. Translated from the original in French.View here.





1. Not to drop matches or burning tobacco where there is inflammable material.

2. Not to build larger camp fires than are necessary.

3. Not to build fires in leaves, rotten wood, or other places where they are likely to spread.

4. In windy weather and in dangerous places, to dig holes or clear the ground to confine camp fires.

5. To extinguish all fires completely before leaving them, even for a short absence.

6. Not to build fires against large or hollow logs, where it is difficult to extinguish them.

7. Not to build fires to clear land without informing the nearest officer of the FOREST SERVICE, so that he may assist in controlling them.

This notice is posted for your benefit and the good of every resident of the region. You are requested to cooperate in preventing the removal or defacement, which acts are punishable by law.

JAMES WILSON, Secretary of Agriculture"


The above excerpt is perhaps one of the first lists of responsible campfire guidelines. It comes from one of a series of notices posted in forests by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, directing attention to U. S. laws against careless fire setting. It was originally quoted in
Boy Scouts Handbook The First Edition, 1911 pg 159 authored by The Boy Scouts of America. View here:



"The scout should never kill an animal or other living creature needlessly. There is more sport in stalking animals to photograph them, and in coming to know their habits than in hunting to kill."

This quote comes from Handbook for Boys by The Boy Scouts of America 1911 pg 5 under the heading "What Scouting Means." View here



"On breaking up camp leave two things behind you: 1. Nothing. 2. Your Thanks."

The above quote is attributed to Lord Baden-Powell the founder of The Boy Scouts of America. It is printed in many Scouting publications one of which you can view here, see page 3.




"I give my pledge as an American to save and faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my country - its soil and minerals, its forests, waters, and wildlife."

In 1946 Outdoor Life Magazine held a contest for a new concise conservation pledge. The contest was won by L. L. Foreman of New Mexico. It spread rapidly around the US and helped many to understand the definition and importance of conservation of the environment. Read about it here and here.



"As an American, I will do my best to – Be clean in my outdoor manners. Be careful with fire. Be considerate in the outdoors. Be conservation minded."


President Eisenhower challenged the Boy Scouts to raise public awareness of caring for natural resources. In response The Boy Scouts of America published the Outdoor Code in Boy's Life Magazine which is still in use today. The full length includes subtext to each precept that further explains it. View here and here.



"1) Make it hard for others to see you and 2) Leave no trace of your visit."

A joint venture between several Federal agencies produced a national campaign to educate the public on "No-Trace" camping techniques. One small publication titled Leave "No Trace" Land Ethics Produced Cooperatively by: USDA USDI offered the following principles along with several useful and detailed practices. View here.



"Leave No Trace Principles:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Leave What You Find

  • Minimize Campfire Impacts 

  • Respect Wildlife

  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors"


The above principles were created by a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service and the National Outdoor Leadership School and this later led to the creation to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics which spearheads conservation education to this day. View more here

Written by David F. Garner
Photo Credit: sara-kangas via