Moab Utah Environmental Information. Preserve and Tread Lightly.

Moab is a special place, simply put. While it looks like a big playground of wide open desert ready for your wild pursuits you must still take incredible care to preserve it. It is a unique, fragile environment. Enjoy Moab but preserve and protect it for future visits and generations. Please remember the following when visiting.

Cryptobiotic Soil Info Leave No Trace Principles

Minimum Impact Practices

Each year, millions of visitors enjoy Canyon Country. The impact of so much use is threatening the area’s biological and cultural resources. You can help protect this fragile and beautiful land by following these five minimum impact practices.

1. Tread lightly when traveling and leave no trace of your camping. Drive and ride only on roads and trails where such travel is allowed; hike only on established trails, on rock, or in washes. Camp at designated sites or, where allowed, at previously-used sites. Avoid placing tents on top of vegetation and use a camp stove instead of making a campfire. Unless signs indicate otherwise, leave gates open or closed as you find them.Why it matters: Much of this area is a desert where plants are sparse and grow very slowly. Shallow soils erode quickly when vegetation is removed or protective cryptobiotic soil crusts are destroyed. These crusts are a complex of slowly-growing cyanobacteria, algae, mosses and lichens that bind the soil together, retain scarce water, and provide a usable source of nitrogen for desert plants. Your tracks do matter, once plants or soil crust are damaged, they may not recover in your lifetime. Wood is a scarce resource that provides wildlife habitat and contributes to nutrient cycling. Gates help protect fragile resources.

Cryptobiotic Soil – Please keep Off!

How to help: Strive to leave no trace of your outing. When driving, riding, and hiking avoid taking shortcuts and travelling through cryptobiotic soils. Don’t be a trail or campsite “pioneer” who leaves a new path or campsite for others to use. Select an area of bare soil for your tent. Use a camp stove rather than burning firewood. If you must have a fire, use a fire pan and bring your own wood. Never cut live or standing trees. Here’s more info on Cryptobiotic Soil to read >>>.

2. Help keep Canyon Country clean. Pack out your trash and recycle it, clean up after less thoughtful visitors, and dispose of human waste properly.Why it matters: Trash, human waste and toilet paper are significant problems that can quickly become health hazards and eyesores. Food scraps and garbage can turn wildlife into problem animals. No one wants to walk or camp where someone has left trash and human waste.

How to help:Make it a point to clean up campsites and day use areas during your visit. Take out all trash, including toilet paper and food scraps, and dispose of it properly through recycling centers and landfills. In some areas, campers must use developed campgrounds or utilize portable toilets at designated undeveloped sites. Where special rules don’t apply, bury solid human waste in the upper few inches of soil.

3. Protect and conserve scarce desert water resources. Camp at least 300 feet from isolated water sources to allow for wildlife access. Where possible, carry your own drinking water. Leave potholes undisturbed and wash well away from pools and springs. Why it matters: Many desert animals, especially birds, depend on the plants around isolated water resources for food and habitat. Camping near water sources damages plants and prevents wildlife from approaching. Small quantities of pollutants can make springs and ponds unusable for wildlife. Body lotions and vehicle lubricants can remain in the water and harm aquatic life, which in egg or larval form may be invisible to the naked eye.

How to help: Camp at least 300 feet from water sources to allow wildlife access. Where feasible, carry all the water you will need for drinking and personal hygiene. Bathe and wash dishes away from desert water sources. Cool off in the shade, not in springs and potholes. Avoid driving or riding through desert water sources.

4. Allow space for wildlife. When encountering wildlife, maintain your distance and remain quiet. Teach children not to chase or pick up animals. Keep pets under control.Why it matters: Canyon Country has great wildlife viewing opportunities, including desert bighorn sheep, deer, elk, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, river otter and a variety of small creatures. Harassing or approaching wild animals will cause them to flee, possibly causing injury and definitely using up the vital energy reserves they need for mating, raising young, winter survival and other activities.

How to help: Watch animals from a distance. Where pets are allowed, keep them leashed and under control. Keep quiet in the back country; you will see more animals and not frighten them.

5. Leave historic sites, Native American rock art, ruins and artifacts untouched for the future. Admire rock art from a distance and never touch it. Stay out of ruins, leave artifacts in place, and report violations. Why it matters; Canyon Country has an abundance of archaeological and historic sites, including rock art, historic inscriptions, old mines, cowboy camps, and Indian cliff dwellings. The people who created this legacy are gone. Now, the physical remains of their occupation are disappearing at an alarming rate. Small actions can add up to major damage. Rock art can be damaged just by touching it. The oil from fingertips speeds erosion by chemically altering ancient painted pigments and the rock itself. Sitting or climbing on rock walls turns ruins into rubble. Walking across middens, the ancient trash heaps below ruins can damage sites. Moving or taking artifacts destroys their scientific value.

How to help; Leave all sites and artifacts undisturbed. Remember not to touch rock art or make marks on canyon walls. Leave artifacts in place and stay out of ruins to avoid damaging them. When approaching a cultural site, avoid walking on soft soils to reduce the possibility of erosion. Report vandalism to the nearest local authorities.

Special Rules. In some areas, visitors must follow special rules designed to protect natural and cultural resource values. Ask at agency offices and visitor centers if any special rules apply to the area you plan to visit.

This above document is an excerpt of:

Crytobiotic Soils – Stick To Established Trails
Biological soil crust is a living groundcover that forms the foundation of high desert plant life in Canyonlands, Moab and the surrounding area. This knobby, black crust is dominated by cyanobacteria, but also includes lichens, mosses, green algae, microfungi and bacteria.

Cyanobacteria, previously called blue-green algae, are one of the oldest known life forms. It is thought that these organisms were among the first land colonizers of the earth’s early land masses, and played an integral role in the formation and stabilization of the earth’s early soils. Extremely thick mats of these organisms converted the earth’s original carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere into one rich in oxygen and capable of sustaining life.

When wet, Cyanobacteria move through the soil and bind rock or soil particles, forming an intricate web of fibers. In this way, loose soil particles are joined together, and an otherwise unstable surface becomes very resistant to both wind and water erosion. The soil-binding action is not dependent on the presence of living filaments. Layers of abandoned sheaths, built up over long periods of time, can still be found clinging tenaciously to soil particles, providing cohesion and stability in sandy soils at depths up to 10cm.

Nitrogen fixation is another significant capability of cyanobacteria. Vascular plants are unable to utilize nitrogen as it occurs in the atmosphere. Cyanobacteria are able to convert atmospheric nitrogen to a form plants can use. This is especially important in desert ecosystems, where nitrogen levels are low and often limiting to plant productivity.

Soil crusts have other functions as well, including an ability to intercept and store water, nutrients and organic matter that might otherwise be unavailable to plants.

Unfortunately, many human activities negatively affect the presence and health of soil crusts. Compressional stresses placed on them by footprints or machinery are extremely harmful, especially when the crusts are dry and brittle. Tracks in continuous strips, such as those produced by vehicles or bicycles, create areas that are highly vulnerable to wind and water erosion. Rainfall carries away loose material, often creating channels along these tracks, especially on slopes.

Impacted areas may never fully recover. Under the best circumstances, a thin veneer of cryptobiotic soil may return in five to seven years. Damage done to the sheath material, and the accompanying loss of soil nutrients, is repaired slowly during up to 50 years of cyanobacterial growth. Lichens and mosses may take even longer to recover.

Avoiding these fragile crusts is simple. Always drive or ride on designated roads. Respect road closures and search for places wide enough to pass other vehicles rather than driving over roadside vegetation. When hiking, always walk on marked trails, or on other durable surfaces such as rock or in sandy washes.

Leave No Trace Principles

These principles are taken from the Leave No Trace website at

• Plan Ahead and Prepare
• Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
• Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
• Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
• Visit in small groups. Split larger parties into groups of 4-6.
• Repackage food to minimize waste.
• Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
• Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
• Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
• Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
• Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
• In popular areas:
— Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
— Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
— Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
• In pristine areas:
— Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
— Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
— Dispose of Waste Properly

• Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods.
• Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.
• Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
• Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
• To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
• Leave What You Find
• Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
• Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
• Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
• Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
• Minimize Campfire Impacts
• Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
• Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
• Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
• Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
• Respect Wildlife
• Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
• Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
• Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
• Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
• Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
• Be Considerate of Other Visitors
• Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
• Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
• Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
• Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
• Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises