Most days, Instagram looks like the wild west of Leave No Trace Principles and proper stewardship rules in the wilderness. On nature pages across the app, scenes of rule breaking are shared and loved. Remote areas in the wilderness become shutterbug shrines, luring scores of outdoor enthusiasts. Birds are fed, signs are ignored and laws are broken. Typically, nothing happens to the photographer and/or the company.
Unless you are REI and got lectured publicly by Mount Rainier National Park.
On December 16th, REI posted one of their employee’s pictures who was stoked to have woken up in his car at Mount Rainier, in Washington State. We should all be so lucky to start the day like that, right?
Well, Mount Rainier had a problem with the picture, and decided to use this as a chance to help educate visitors to the park about camping rules. Sure, they used Twitter instead of Instagram, but that doesn’t matter. The National Park Service is watching, and hopefully continuing to help correct behaviors that need to be changed. Mount Rainier’s response was appropriate and concise; they provided a link and set the record straight on car camping for anyone interested. They could have lectured REI, and nearly every other Instagram account for using a lack of judgement when sharing pictures. Instead, they stayed classy, and showed everyone that they are watching, and will call you out.
Who wants to bet Rangers at Mount Rainier are going to patrol for this a bit more in the coming months?
Nearly every major outdoor Instagram page has shared pictures of people feeding wildlife of some kind. Many also have shown numerous locations that are illegal to get to, are activities that are illegal to do. Usually, the image gets a few thousand likes and leaves people daydreaming about their next adventure into the wilderness. That is, until countless followers decide to go to that destination. Overnight, a region will blow up with popularity, and owners of the land will enforce the rules and laws. One destination, known best as #ThatNWBridge, was used for professional photoshoots and an exaggerated millions of Instagram images. The owners, rightly upset that people were risking their lives on their land, requested more patrols in the area. The result has been an issuing of numerous misdemeanor trespassing charges, with rumors that some instances have been felony trespassing charges. You aren’t talking yourself out of that ticket.
I probably sound like an old man, shaking my fist at the darn kids, but there are a code of ethics in wilderness areas that need to be learned and followed. Mount Rainier appears to be doing a really cool thing with their reaction to the REI picture. Instead of attacking, they addressed the issue with respect. They are taking on the responsibility of educating the public on the rules, and hopefully helping all of us sit back and think about the example we are setting with our images. I know some of you will read this and continue to feed and get too close to wildlife. Some will scoff and fines and keep on trespassing for the next adventure. Some will ignore signs to stand in an ice cave on a hot summer day. In the end, those are your choices, but you were warned.
Thanks for the reminder to promote stewardship, Mount Rainier. Keep it up!