The Environmental Impact of Cairn Making

The word cairn, from the Scottish Gaelic for stone man, can conjure up images of faith and purpose, of an enlightened journey. In the backcountry, cairn making is a popular pastime, and it’s easy to see why people are attracted by these sweet little piles of flat rocks that are shaped like children’s building blocks. With shoulders aching and black flies buzzing around ears, a hiker will take a look at the stones around her, and then try to select one that has just the right mix of tilt and flatness as well click for source as breadth and depth. After a few near misses (one that’s too bulgy, another that’s too small) the truest will select the one that’s set perfectly in place, and the subsequent layer of the cairn will be complete.

However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that cairn building can have a negative environmental impact, particularly when it is done near water sources. When rocks are removed from the edge of an ocean, a lake or pond, they disturb the ecosystem and degrade the microorganisms‘ habitats that support the entire food-chain. In addition these rocks can be carried away by erosion to places that could pose a threat to wildlife or humans.

Cairn construction should be avoided in areas that are home to rare or endangered reptiles, mammals amphibians, flowers, or reptiles or where the water is trapped beneath the rocks. If you build your cairn in private land it could be in violation of the federal and state laws protecting the natural resources of the land. It could result in fines, or even arrest.

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