OR Funds Leave No Trace Scholarships

We at Outdoor Research are in love with our wild lands. And we want to keep them that way—wild. So we put our money where are heart is, toward spreading the the message of Leave No Trace, one of our nonprofit partners. Each year, we fund scholarships for LNT's master educator courses, which equip participants to train others in LNT principles and skills.

The ME courses are the highest level of training offered through the Center for Outdoor Ethics, and are recognized and highly regarded throughout the world by land management agencies and the outdoor industry. As of January 2013 there were almost 6,000 LNT MEs worldwide. Certified master educators can run trainer courses, facilitate awareness workshops, short clinics and presentations or simple on-trail contact with others.

Last year, OR awarded 12 ME course scholarships to to give leaders in the outdoors the tools they need to teach others how to protect the world around them. "While it would appear that becoming a LNT ME would just be a professional step, it was much more than that for me," said scholarship recipient Ivan Bertha, who is coordinator for experiential programs at St. Cloud State University Outdoor Endeavors. "It is an opportunity to influence and educate a culture that needs to be close to the land in order to better understand it and our impact on it. To be perfectly honest, it's simply the right thing to do, given the professional position and platform I have been graced with."

The principles of LNT are key to OR's core value of protecting the planet we live on, but training and education aren't free. Often people in outdoor leadership roles are doing what they do because of their passion for the outdoors—not because they're raking in the dollars, so scholarships go a long way toward promoting the voice of LNT.

Bertha has been working in outdoor leadership since 1989, and admits that a profession in his field is heavily laden with requisite training and certifications, which can be difficult to fund. "For new professionals, it's even more difficult, so the scholarship is often the deal breaker with moving forward to become a LNT ME or not. The scholarship has made a huge difference in an outdoor leader's ability to attain this level of training and adopt LNT culture. It's a great program and has made a direct contribution to the success and number of participants in the LNT programs."

The influence of the newly minted master educators snowballs, as their knowledge is passed on to other instructors and then on to volunteers on the trail. Dave Pacheco, executive director of Wilderness Volunteers in Salt Lake City, attended the ME course in Yellowstone this summer, thanks to a scholarship from OR. He explains that getting the new certification doubles his organization's ability to teach LNT trainer courses, which in turn opens up more volunteer opportunities.

Learn more about how Leave No Trace is making a difference at lnt.org.