The Environmental Impact of Cairn Making

The word »cairn » is derived from the Scottish Gaelic meaning stone man. It can conjure images of purpose, faith, and a spiritual journey. Cairn building is a popular activity in the backcountry. It’s easy to see why people are drawn to these tiny piles of flat stones that can be stacked like children’s blocks. With shoulders aching and black flies buzzing around ears, hikers will survey the stones before her, and then try to select one that has just the right mix of flatness and tilt, breadth and depth. After a few close-calls (one too big, one too small) A true skeptic will select the one that fits perfectly into place. The second layer of the Cairn is now complete.

What many don’t know is that cairns can have an adverse environmental impact, especially when it is done near water sources. When rock is removed from the edge of a pond, river or lake, it erodes the ecosystem and destroys the habitat for microorganisms that are essential to the food chain. In addition that, these rocks can be carried away by erosion to locations where they could inflict harm on humans or wildlife.

Cairn building should be avoided in areas that have rare or endangered mammals, reptiles amphibians, reptiles, or flowers or where the moisture is trapped beneath the rocks. And if you build your cairn in here private land it could violate the laws of the state and federal government that protect the land’s natural resources and could result in fines, or even a detention.

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