LEAVE NO TRACE ON MAINE'S FRAGILE ISLANDS
from Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
As visitors to the fragile and unique Maine Coast, we have a responsibility to protect and conserve the Islands we visit.
More and more travelers along the coast are visiting Maine's many islands in search of solitude and a "wilderness experience" away from crowds, noise, and hectic pace of mainland life. Others want to experience Maine’s coastal culture. This escape needs to be accompanied by a commitment to protect and conserve these special places and cultures.
Though islands may look rugged, they are remarkably fragile ecosystems. "Leave No Trace" practices are techniques that visitors can use to help reduce their impacts on the land and to lessen the sight and sound of their visit.
Leave No Trace is a member driven organization dedicated to establishing a nationwide code of outdoor ethics by which to shape a sustainable future for natural lands. With recreational use soaring, the LNT ethic has never been so necessary. The Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) has recently partnered with LNT to help bring the Leave No Trace ethic to the Maine coast.
There are seven LNT principles to help ensure that island-goers minimize their impact on the fragile island ecosystems:
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave What You Find
Minimize Campfire Impacts -- Kindle No Fires
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
PLAN AHEAD & PREPARE
Visiting islands in a responsible way requires forethought and planning on the part of each individual.
- Every island is owned by someone; you must have the owner's permission to land on each island. State islands are generally open to the public. Contact the Maine Island Trail® Association (MITA) for information about island access.
- Consider shoreside campgrounds and/or B & B's as alternatives to island camping.
- Many islands have regulations or recommended guidelines that limit camping, the use of fire and other recreational activities. Contact MITA for more information.
- To help reduce your impact, keep your group size to 6 people or fewer.
- To reduce potential litter at the source, remove excess food packaging before you leave home.
TRAVEL & CAMP ON DURABLE SURFACES
Island soils are shallow, easily eroded and quickly compacted. Once an inch of soil layer is lost, it can take centuries to replace. Island vegetation is intrinsic to healthy soil, holding it in place and preventing erosion.
- Travel on sand, stone, resilient grassy areas and established trails.
- Avoid scrambling over dirt banks or shrubby ledges; these are easily eroded and rarely recover. Please do not walk in wet, boggy areas and avoid trampling mosses and lichens.
- Please do not cut or clear vegetation, trees, or limbs - dead or alive - for any purpose.
- Use existing campsites; do not expand established sites or clear new sites. If the campsites are already in use, squeeze into an existing site or bivouac on smooth granite, sand or gravel.
- Limit your stay to 2 nights. The longer you stay, the more impact you create.
- When leaving, restore your campsite to its natural state.
DISPOSE OF WASTE PROPERLY
Exposed waste is unhealthy for humans and wildlife. Digging cat-holes to bury waste is not appropriate on islands because the soils are shallow and easily eroded. It is illegal to discharge human waste into U.S. waters, including the intertidal zone.
Solid human waste should be carried off and disposed of in an appropriate receptacle on the mainland (toilet, RV campground waste facility, sewage treatment plant or marine pump-out station). Toilet paper should also be packed out.
Several recommended carry-off methods:
- Porta-potty or boat holding tank.
- Boom Box sea kayak toilet system.
- Bucket with tight fitting lid (sea water, sand, or lime minimize odor.)
- Plastic container with water-tight lid, quarter-filled with seawater or other inert material.
- Wag Bag portable environmental toilet system.
- Double plastic bag or milk carton with kitty litter.
Trash & Garbage
- Carry out all trash and garbage - both your own and any you find - and bring it to the mainland for proper disposal.
- Food scraps should be picked up and packed out. Reducing food waste helps prevent animals from becoming attracted to humans as a food source.
LEAVE WHAT YOU FIND
People come to wild islands to enjoy them in their natural state. Allow others a sense of discovery by leaving rocks, plants and other objects of interest as you find them.
- Minimize campsite alterations. Consider the idea that good campsites are found and not made. Leave the area in as good or even more natural condition than you found it.
- Avoid damaging trees and plants. To prevent damage to greenery, use freestanding tents when possible. An island visitor picking flowers, leaves, edible berries or plants may seem harmless but the cumulative effect of many visitors doing so becomes quite damaging.
- Don't dig up someone's hidden past. Ancient stone walls, cellar holes, shell heaps, and other markers of past inhabitants can provide important archeological information when excavated properly.
MINIMIZE CAMPFIRE IMPACTS - KINDLE NO FIRES
Fires on islands have a high risk of spreading due to changeable winds, interconnected root systems, organic soils, and the lack of services. MITA recommends no open fires at anytime.
Use a camp stove below the high tide line for cooking.
If you must have a fire, a permit is required from the Maine Forest Service (800-750-9777) for public islands. Fires are prohibited on most private islands.
If you must have a fire, the following techniques will ensure that you leave no trace:
- Use established fire rings. If no fire rings are present, build your fire on sand or use a fire pan below the high tide line. Fires on granite leave permanent scars.
- Make your fires small and safe.
- Use only driftwood from below the high tide line.
- Use extreme caution! Have a bucket of water nearby at all times.
- All fires should be dead out and cleaned up before you leave camp.
In case of emergency, call toll free 888-900-FIRE.
We are all visitors to Maine's islands, most of whose inhabitants are wild - deer, seabirds, ospreys and seals. If we think of ourselves as guests when using the islands, we can't go too far wrong.
- Leave all pets at home.
- Please avoid seabird nesting islands from early April to mid-August. If your presence is causing birds to leave their nests, you are too close.
- Avoid islands with eagles entirely.
- Seals bear their young between mid-May and mid-June. Disturbance can cause seals to flee, leaving pups exposed and vulnerable. Stay far enough away from the ledges so that the seals do not flee into the water.
BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS
When you cruise the Maine coast, you are among thousands of other boaters.
- If there are other people on the island, respect their privacy. Look for a landing site some distance away, or consider another island altogether.
- Help preserve the wilderness look of the island by keeping your visual impact low. Pull small boats out of sight on durable surfaces and pitch tents inconspicuously in established campsites.