82 million people visit Colorado each year and they don't always leave the place as they found it.
Leaving behind disposable water bottles, feeding wildlife and going off-trail are the most common examples.
So the Colorado Office of Tourism is educating people as they plan their visit. The department partnered with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics in Boulder to outline core principles in the "Care For Colorado" campaign. (Try to get the jingle out of your head.)
"Our research was showing us that Coloradans were starting to express some concern: impacts on water, impacts on wildlife, impacts on land," Tourism Director Cathy Ritter said. "But what we found is this issue is growing in important for visitors, as well."
The Colorado Dude And Guest Ranch Association will now send out "Care For Colorado" brochures with every welcome package, for example. The principles will also be shared when people make reservations online.
If you're expecting a visit from an old college roommate, a faraway friend, even your mom, consider relaying these tips before they board the plane or hop in a car.
1. Plan Ahead
Bring a reusable water bottle. Bring a reusable water bottle. Bring a reusable water bottle.
That may seem like a small thing to emphasize, but it's one of the easiest ways to make a positive impact. Even when you recycle those disposable plastic water bottles, it creates more waste for the state.
Once you carabiner your Nalgene to your backpack, start mapping out your trip. Consider alternatives to Colorado's A-List destinations. Garden of the Gods and Hanging Lake are beautiful, but there are more than 3,800 miles of trail to choose from here.
"We are very careful to never say, ‘Don’t go there.’ But we’re also saying, 'Think about when you’re going,'" Ritter said.
2. Stay On The Trail
Once you've selected your hiking trails, stay on them. Those routes will give you plenty of nature, and by keeping your feet on them, you help conserve the ecosystem around you. Neat!
3. Just Use A Trash Can, Ok?
It may seem simple, but this is a common misstep. This applies to plastics and other materials, of course, but also your food scraps and, yes, sometimes your poop. (We're looking at you, would-be Conundrum Hot Springs goers.)
4. No Wild Souvenirs
This one's a classic, folks. Ever heard of, "Leave Only Footprints, Take Only Memories"? Don't pick wildflowers, no matter how pretty, or collect rocks and artifacts, no matter how cool. And don't carve your initials or your doodles into tree trunks or rocks, please.
5. Embrace Your Smokey Bear
Everyone loves Colorado's low-humidity weather. So does wildfire. Keep your campfires manageable, never leave them unattended and put them out. Also, don't leave your cigarette butts behind.
6. Don't Feed (Or Selfie) The Animals
Visitors can see some species for the very first time in Colorado. It's understandably exciting to spot a bison, a bear or a moose, but keep your distance. Don't approach wild animals, and definitely don't feed them. Some cities even have bear selfie laws.
7. Let The Sounds Of Nature Ring, Not Your Cellphone
Be a conscientious hiker. Silence your phone, speak softly and don't play loud music on the trail. Especially if you've visit one of those less-traveled sites, everyone will appreciate it.