Publication Date

Summer 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies


Kathleen McConnell


Conservation, Leopold, Muir, Nature, Preservation, Trails

Subject Areas

Communication; Environmental studies; Rhetoric


Hiking trails are one of the major ways citizens make observations about the natural world. An analysis of trail maintenance texts demonstrates a focus on concealment and camouflage of human construction and upkeep in National Scenic Trails. These practices are detrimental to environmentalism, since the resulting ideology frames nature as overly self-sufficient and not in need of human stewardship. Trail maintenance practices are analyzed in reference to the nature/culture dichotomy. Perceptions of nature’s self-healing ability are analyzed through a comparison of the oil spills in Santa Barbara during 1969 and 2015. An alternative approach is found through Aldo Leopold. Leopold provides environmental “equipment for living” in issues of trail management and stewardship. The main focus of the alternative perspective is encouraging trekkers to reflect on the sources of items used to create trails, by utilizing transparency in trail construction methods.