Leave No Trace

NPS Leave No Trace Video

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9 minutes, 42 seconds

Produced in 2001 by the National Park Service in conjunction with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, this video introduces the principles of the Leave No Trace program.


Keeping it Green at White Sands


"Sustainability" is a word you might be hearing a lot lately, but what does it really mean? At its core, sustainability is about making sure a system keeps going; seeing that it is supported, nourished, and survives into the future. It means living today without compromising future generations' ability to meet their needs. Sustainability has been a part of the National Park Service Mission Statement since its inception in 1916:

"...to promote and regulate the use of the...national parks...which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

As protectors of the world's largest gypsum dunefield, we at White Sands National Monument hope to maintain the beauty and wonder of the sand dunes for many, many years to come. As partners in the ownership of this natural resource, you can help make sure this area remains as pristine and enjoyable as you found it by taking part in some easy steps for the sustainability of White Sands National Monument.

Recycling bins are located throughout the park.

NPS Photo

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

One vital way we can all contribute to protecting the dunefield at White Sands National Monument is to recycle. This helps keep the area clean and allows each of us to do our part in keeping the Earth beautiful.

What we recycle:

  • Plastic
  • Aluminum
  • Office paper
  • Cardboard

Recycling bins for the public are located in front of and behind the visitor center as well as in the dunefield near picnic areas.

Reusable water bottles also help reduce the amount of trash that winds up strewn about the dunefield. It also decreases the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, filling, packaging, and transport of disposable water containers. You can purchase reusable water bottles in both the gift shop and bookstore. If you need to fill up your reusable containers, a filling station is located at the visitor center.


Zero Waste Picnic

If you are planning a visit to White Sands National Monument and would like to bring your lunch with you, we would like to encourage you to take part in a "Zero Waste" picnic! With your help, we can reduce waste, increase recycling, and contribute toward a more sustainable planet. You can make your lunch as environmentally friendly as possible by remembering the three R's: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Want to help? Here's how:


The goal of the "Zero Waste" picnic is to end up with as little leftover garbage as possible. One way we can accomplish this is by managing how much food we bring! If we pack appropriately, we can bring only what we need for the day and take the rest home with us rather than trashing the leftovers. We can also reduce our overall waste by utilizing the other two R's: Reuse and Recycle.


One of the best ways we can help our planet is by reusing many of the products we use during lunch. Some ideas include:

  • Pack your lunch in reusable containers, such as a lunch box instead of a paper bag.
  • Put food in reusable plastic containers whenever possible.
  • Pack reusable eating utensils instead of plastic disposables.
  • Use a thermos for your beverages rather than bringing them in one-time use contaners.


If you are unable to bring food or beverages in a reusable container, these goods often come in packaging that can be recycled and made into another product at a later time. Here at White Sands National Monument we recycle plastic and aluminum as well as other paper goods. Bins for plastic and aluminum items can be found at the visitor center and near picnic areas in the dunefield.

visitors with dog
Visitors hiking with their dog on a leash.

R. Wiles Photo

Leave No Trace

Do you know what it means to leave no trace? In short, it means to leave the places that you visit the same way you found them or better. According to www.LNT.org, "...if people do something, even something simple, to help take care of the recreational resources they cherish, we will all benefit. Cleaner water, less campfire impacts, fewer negative encounters with wildlife, less damage/loss of cultural and historic artifacts are just a few of the benefits of adhering to Leave No Trace."

White Sands National Monument and the National Park Service firmly uphold the values that make up the Leave No Trace program. Read below to learn how you can lessen your impact and help preserve this beautiful resource for future generations.


Pets love White Sands. And why not? To them, it's full of new scents, sights, and excitement! And people love bringing their furry companions with them to the park, too.

Visitors are more than welcome to bring their pets out to White Sands National Monument. There are just a few rules to remember to make sure you, other visitors, and your pet have the best trip possible.

  • Pick up after your pet.
    This helps keep White Sands clean and beautiful for your enjoyment and for the enjoyment of future generations. Cleaning up after your pet also allows the area to remain sanitary and keeps diseases from spreading—helping you, your family, and your pet stay healthy!
  • Keep pets on a leash.
    Leasing your pet also ensures that your much-loved friend doesn't run away or get lost. It also makes sure that they do not get into things that are bad for them, such as cacti, poisonous and venomous insects, or venomous animals like rattlesnakes. Federal law also prohibits dogs from being off the leash in public areas.
  • Give pets plenty of water.
    Like you, pets get thirsty too. Especially in the summer, they can become dehydrated very quickly.
  • Do not bring pets inside the visitor center.
    While we love seeing pets in the park, they are not allowed in federal buildings. This includes the visitor center. The only exception to this rule is for service animals.
  • Do not leave pets unattended, especially in hot cars.
    During the summer, temperatures at White Sands National Monument can reach extreme highs. It is prohibited to leave pets unattened. Please do not leave your pet inside your vehicle as within just ten minutes, the inside temperature can become almost 20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. Within 30 minutes, temperatures can rise to about 30 degrees warmer inside of a vehicle. Pets left in hot vehicles can suffer severe organ damage or even death. See the chart below to see how quickly the inside of your vehicle heats up.
If the outside temperature is... The inside temperature will reach... Within this many minutes...
75º 100º 10 minutes
75º 120º 30 minutes
85º 100º 7 minutes
85º 120º 27 minutes
100º 140º 15 minutes

Cryptobiotic Filaments
Filaments of the cryptobiotic soil (blue-green algae) at White Sands

NPS photo

Protecting Delicate Areas:

Always hike on the open sand along the edge of the dunes, avoiding the fragile interdune areas. It is in the interdune areas where the easily damaged cryptobiotic crust can be found. This dark, bumpy surface is really a community of microscopic organisms woven together like a mat or carpet. They work together to stabilize and create a nutrient-rich soil layer that our plants need to grow. When you camp in these areas, restrict your movement to a confined space to help protect the crust.

This image from 1953 shows the trash left behind by a group of visitors. Would you want to be the one to use this spot next?

NPS photo

Pack It In, Pack It Out:

All campers and other visitors are required to pack out their trash, including toilet paper. If you're camping, leave a clean campsite behind when you leave for the next person to enjoy. In addition to aesthetic concerns, there are also health concerns for both people and wildlife when trash is not packed out. The same applies if you are only visiting the monument for a few hours.

The only exceptions to this rule are urine and solid waste, although they still have to be properly disposed of. Bury solid waste at lease 100 feet away from the designated campsite and trails. Urinating on sand is fine, but please cover it with a fresh latyer of sand. Do not urinate on or near plants, because that may interfere with the wildlife's use of the plant for food or shelter.

Venemous snakes like the Prairie Rattlesnake above make their home at White Sands

NPS photo

Be Mindful of Wildlife:

Animals will be attracted to food odors. Many have a difficult time digesting human food and, like us, cannot digest its packaging. This leads many animals to become sick and die. If an animal learns to associate people with food, they may have to be destroyed. Please properly dispose of food wrappers and containers.

Some of our desert animals can be dangerous. Several venemous species make thier homes within the park, including rattlesnakes, scorpions, black widow spiders, and brown recluse spiders. Always observe wildlife from a distance. Never follow or approach them.


Be Respectful of Other Visitors:

Please always remember to respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience. Enjoy the sounds of nature and avoid shouting or playing loud music that may disrupt others' enjoyment of the dunes.

red circle
Removing sand, crystals, wildlife, plants, or artifacts from the park is a violation of federal law.

Do Not Take Natural Objects or Animals Home:

We know that it is tempting to take home a souvenir but removing natural objects from within the monument is not just a matter of taking home a small bag of sand or a really cool selenite crystal. It's a matter of robbing others of the chance to enjoy those things, too. The only exception to this rule is litter. Picking up any litter you find and properly disposing of it helps the environment and ensures everyone gets to enjoy a clean, healthy, and safe time here at the monument.

Federal law (36 CFR 2.1) prohibits the removal of sand, animals, rocks, plants, artifacts, or any other objects from the park. To do so is a felony and can result in criminal charges and a hefty fine.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 1086
Holloman AFB, NM 88330


(575) 479-6124
(recorded information and an option to speak with someone)

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