It's time to get outdoors and enjoy Michigan's beauty.
But first, make sure your activities aren't damaging the state's nature and wildlife.
Humans can have negative impacts on the environment, such as trampling of native vegetation, causing erosion of soils, contaminating water, attracting wildlife with food and displacing wildlife from preferred habitats. The United States Geological Survey provided a list of ways nature is impacted while people enjoy the outdoors.
Cutting down trees for firewood is a large problem. A USGS study of campsites in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota showed that 44 percent of campsite trees were damaged and about 18 trees per campsite had been cut down, primarily for firewood.
The USGS also found that campsites on large, flat areas are often expanded by campers, leading to more water runoff with soil and pollutants into bodies of water. This can cause decreased water clarity and purity that can affect trout reproduction, as sediments carry fungus and bacteria that harm trout eggs. It also introduces nutrients that cause algal blooms in water that diminish the amount of dissolved oxygen.
Some ways to reduce such impacts include using only dead and fallen campfire wood that they can break by hand; choosing small campsites in sloped areas that are more than 200 feet from water; and concentrating activity on durable surfaces, such as rock or areas that lack plant cover.
When hikers go off trails, they can trample protective vegetation and organic materials, which leads to increased water runoff and erosion when soil is compacted. According to the USGS, soil loss is the most significant and long-lasting environmental impact.
USGS scientists are working with university social scientists to investigate sustainable trail design guidance and actions to deter off-trail hiking.
Feeding animals can cause the animals to associate humans with food, which can lead to those that may be dangerous or have diseases being close to humans. It can also cause animals to become dependent on humans for food and place them in areas where they are more likely to be hit by a vehicle. Additionally, feeding animals can cause them to suffer nutritionally.
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