What can we all do to help?
Cape Breton Highlands National Park
The health of the ecosystem is everybody's responsibility. There are a lot of things you can do to help. Just by keeping your own home and yard safe for yourself and your family, you may help keep the ecosystem in good condition. You might already be helping the ecosystem without even knowing it. See if you do any of the things listed below.
- Reduce your energy consumption. Turn off lights and appliances when you don't need to use them. Choose to drive a smaller car. Try walking instead of driving to the store or a friend's house if you don't have far to go. Aside from being good exercise, walking is easy on the ecosystem. By reducing your energy consumption, you can help reduce global climate change and pollution because less carbon dioxide is released into the air.
- Reduce your water consumption. Fresh water is a limited resource. Try installing dams in your toilet reservoir and taking shorter showers. Don't leave the tap running when brushing your teeth! By reducing water consumption you can help keep the fresh water we have safe and disease-free.
- Take part in your local recycling program. Nova Scotia is recognized internationally for its excellent recycling program. The benefits of recycling are enormous, ranging from decreasing the number of trees that must be cut for paper products to increasing the amount of land available to humans since less is needed for landfills. You can help reduce pollution and habitat fragmentation by recycling.
- Try composting. A compost is a great way to reduce the amount of household waste you produce and increase the bounty from your garden. If you don't garden yourself, maybe you have a friend or a neighbour who does and who would be happy to take good compostable waste from you.
- Try to use environmentally-friendly cleaning products and pesticides. There are natural alternatives to harsh cleansers and toxic pesticides. By using these cleaning products, you can help prevent pollution and can keep your environment toxin-free.
- Keep your property animal-friendly by planting and/or maintaining lots of trees. You'll get lots of visitors like birds and butterflies. Planting tree species that are native to the area will ensure that you don't need to put a lot of maintenance into them, and it will help keep the ecosystem from being fragmented. Trees also help keep the air fresh and reduce global climate change.
- Try growing a garden of native plants. Lots of native plants have beautiful flowers and foliage. Field guides can tell you what is native to your area, and some books have even been published all about gardening with native plants. Some specialized nurseries grow native plants which you can buy. You can collect seeds sparingly from native plants in the fall, as long as the plants aren't in the park. We need to keep those seeds there to keep the park's ecosystem diverse and healthy. By planting native plants in your garden, you can help keep non-native ones out of the ecosystem.
- Use All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) responsibly. It is illegal to drive ATVs on bogs and beaches in Nova Scotia. They can damage and destroy habitat easily by crushing vegetation and compacting the soil. It can take a long time for a trail made by ATVs to disappear. By driving responsibly, you can help keep the ecosystem from being fragmented.
While visiting the park:
- Leave nature in its place. It is illegal to collect or disturb any natural object or cultural artifact including plants, animals, rocks or fossils within a national park. This is because all these items are important to the ecosystem. They might be habitat or food for some other sort of creature. They might also be important for interpreting the history of the ecosystem. It's also important to leave everything as you found it so that the visitors who come after you will be able to see and experience all the things you did.
- Do not gather firewood or kindling. A stick is a stick, right? Dead wood. No good for anything. Wrong! Sticks and logs provide homes for insects, fungi, mosses, and small plants. They provide shelter for salamanders and other small creatures. Eventually they will rot, returning nutrients to the soil which living plants can then use. The ecosystem is the best recycling system in the world.
- Build fires only in designated fireplaces. A number of campsites and picnic areas are furnished with firepits provided by the park. These are the only places where it is legal to build a campfire within the park, to help prevent forest fires. Keep your fires small - only 2 or 3 logs burning at a time. This will reduce the amount of smoke in the campground - making it easier for you and others to breathe.
- Stay on designated trails to reduce trampling damage to plants and soils. Plants can stand a little bit of trampling. But if they are stepped on by dozens of visitors a day, they will die. Plants are very important to the ecosystem because their roots hold soil in place, keeping it from eroding away. Soil takes tens of thousands of years to develop, especially on the highlands, where it is extremely thin. A single rainstorm could wash away thousands of years worth of soil if there were no roots holding it together. Trails are maintained to be able to withstand everyone's feet. The sides of the trails, where the plants grow, are not.
- Do not feed or entice wild animals to come closer. It is illegal within a national park, and it puts both you and the animal at risk. Wild animals are not tame. They are unpredictable and could attack you if they feel threatened by how close you are. Wild animals used to being fed by humans lose their fear of humans and cars. They come close to roads and could easily be hit. If they come to rely on humans for food during the summer visiting season, they may have trouble surviving the winter on their own.
- Keep your campsite clean. Don't leave garbage lying around. Store all your food in your vehicle. This will help keep bears and raccoons out of the campground.
- Do not litter. Littering harms wildlife. Tin cans and broken glass can cut animals. Six-pack rings, rope and twine can get tangled around them and strangle or starve them. Animals attracted to litter on roadsides may get hit by passing vehicles. Litter can make animals sick if they eat it. Litter also spoils the view for other park visitors. Litter is subject to a $5000.00 fine in national parks. We encourage visitors to go the extra mile and pick up litter when you see it. Garbage cans are located at trail heads, day use areas and throughout the campgrounds.
- Don't leave a trace when you're hiking or backpacking. Everything you carry into the woods - litter, food containers, gear - should come out with you again. Please make sure you pack out everything you've packed in. This will help reduce the chance of human-wildlife conflicts on trails. It also ensures that the next visitor who passes by will have as enjoyable an experience as you have had.
- Recycle. There are recycling facilities throughout the campgrounds. Please use them.
- Do not drive off-road vehicles within the park. It is illegal to do so. These vehicles crush vegetation and disturb wildlife. They increase the probability of soil being eroded away. There is also the chance that fuel may spill into the natural environment, polluting it.
- Keep pets under physical control at all times and remove their droppings from public areas. Pets are welcome in the park but they should always be on a leash. This is to keep both the wildlife and your pet safe. A pet which chases after wildlife might cause injury to the wild animal. Or it might be injured itself by a terrified wild creature. Pet droppings should be picked up and put in garbage receptacles to keep the park facilities clean and pleasant for all visitors.
- Use biological tank treatment products for odour control in RVs. There are cost effective biological products available which are safe for both your family and the environment. Chemical treatment products are potentially toxic and can affect park campground sewage treatment systems.
- Dispose of dirty water in sinks or toilets, not on the ground. There are dishwashing facilities in the campgrounds. Soapy water can harm vegetation and small animals. Phosphates in soap can get into lakes and rivers and cause algal blooms which deplete dissolved oxygen in the water. This can lead to the death of fish and many other aquatic organisms.
- Shower in the showers. Please don't use soap or shampoos in the lakes or rivers of the park. The soap can kill small organisms and cause algal blooms.
- Use low gear when descending mountains along the Cabot Trail. Gradients in the park can be extremely steep. You can damage your transmission and/or burn your brakes if you do not gear down when going down the mountains. Fumes from burning brakes contribute to air pollution and may be responsible for the disappearance of lichens from parts of the park.
Respect the plants, animals and things around you. They have existed together here for thousands of years. You can help make sure they remain for thousands more.
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