A Call for Realistic Cave Conservation

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A Call for Realistic Cave Conservation

Postby wvcaveman » Jul 13, 2011 7:22 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FZibInOPa8

In June 2011, a permit was granted for legal entry into Bowden Cave, located on the Monongahela National Forest in north-central West Virginia. The group entering the cave were attendees at a Cave and Karst Management Workshop held in Elkins, WV. Individuals who entered the cave all wore tyvek suits, rubber boots, exam gloves under leather gloves, and helmets. They each carried three sources of light, in addition to their inventory materials and cave cleanup equipment and after visiting the cave conducted decontamination of equipment exceeding the USFWS caving decon protocols, including secondary decontamination to ensure no Geomyces destructans fungus or spores would be transported elsewhere.

When the group initially entered the cave, it was immediately clear that vandals had done tremendous damage to the cave by leaving trash on the floor, graffiti on the walls, and by breaking flowstone. At least one bat was observed to have been a victim of vandal attack. The vandals who entered Bowden Cave had obviously ignored closure requirements. Furthermore, responsible cavers who did adhere to closure requirements had been excluded from visiting the cave for conservation purposes, recreational purposes, and educational purposes. Only those who ignored or were ignorant of closure requirements had visited Bowden Cave.

The permit issued for legal access to Bowden Cave on June 23, 2011 allowed responsible, well-equipped conversation-minded people the opportunity to clean up trash, remove graffiti, and conduct resource inventory. Issuance of future permits to equally responsible individuals for visits to Bowden Cave could help to protect this irreplaceable resource. However, continued blanket closure will only serve to keep out those who are most equipped and most responsible for protecting this cave.

It has been stated that Bowden is a "sacrificial cave." No cave is sacrificial. Each cave is a unique environment that can provide homes for untold numbers and kinds of life. Caves provide opportunities for recreation and discovery. They can be geologically unique and interesting. They are living classrooms for so many areas of study and science. Protecting them requires thoughtful and realistic approaches.

True protection of caves like Bowden requires a concerted effort with those who are best equipped and most responsible. Its our hope that this such approach will be applied to Bowden Cave so that real conservation can be achieved.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FZibInOPa8

sincerely,
Aaron Bird
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Re: A Call for Realistic Cave Conservation

Postby Steve Pitts » Jul 15, 2011 9:27 am

This sort of thing is the clear result of the total stupidity of the USFWS blanket cave closure. The result will be more incidence of vandalism and damage to the cave ecosystem and its inhabitants. This is THEIR fault. The USFWS should be help responsible. The USFWS has made choices based on ignorance and stupidity that are threatening our karts resources. It is up to every responsible caver to protest, at local levels and regional levels.

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Re: A Call for Realistic Cave Conservation

Postby PYoungbaer » Jul 15, 2011 11:42 am

Thanks, Aaron. The Bowden situation is becoming well-known in agency circles. We can only hope that common sense and a conservation ethic that goes beyond just bats begins to take hold at agency levels. There are some good agency folks - cavers - who are working to make this happen, but they need our help to continue to tell these stories.

See you in Colorado.
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Re: A Call for Realistic Cave Conservation

Postby tncaver » Jul 15, 2011 1:28 pm

Thanks Steve for presenting the "other side" of the story too.
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Re: A Call for Realistic Cave Conservation

Postby Steve Pitts » Jul 15, 2011 4:17 pm

An additional note: Our local USFWS officials have been working with cavers for over 30 years. I have worked with them and know them well. They are excellent.
I do believe they have the wisdom to understand Realistic Cave Conservation. But, they have their hands tied by Federal politics. Seems like the higher you go in the hierarchy the grasp on reality becomes less tangible.
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Re: A Call for Realistic Cave Conservation

Postby Crockett » Jul 16, 2011 9:53 am

So Bowden is not a closed cave. It is open by permit.

I anticipate that you want a self permit system that will attract "good" cavers who will run out the bad people who trash the caves. Why can't "good" cavers just ask for a permit? Is it really that hard? If simply asking for a permit prevents the "good" cavers from showing up then how "good" can they be?

The tyvek suits and exam gloves are counter productive but I bet you could get a permit without those requirements if you tried.

Can you explain what you want to change and why?
Last edited by Crockett on Jul 18, 2011 1:50 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: A Call for Realistic Cave Conservation

Postby tncaver » Jul 16, 2011 10:48 am

Questions. When did the permit system begin at Bowden's Cave? Was it before or after the WNS debacle began?
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Re: A Call for Realistic Cave Conservation

Postby wvcaveman » Jul 18, 2011 2:32 pm

Bowden is a closed cave. A single permit was issued to allow participants of the USFS Cave and Karst Management Workshop into the cave. The video is representative of the requirements and stipulations in place for issuance of and compliance with this particular single one-day permit. Most of those in attendance are employees of USFS, USFWS, Park Service, state agencies, and the Nature Conservancy. The workshop was organized and planned by USFS employees and supported by NCKRI and NSS.
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Re: A Call for Realistic Cave Conservation

Postby wvcaveman » Jul 18, 2011 2:36 pm

Bowden was closed after WNS was confirmed in WV. The permit was issued only for June 23, 2011.
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Re: A Call for Realistic Cave Conservation

Postby Steve Pitts » Jul 18, 2011 3:04 pm

Same problem is happening at Fern Cave in Alabama. Cave closures are no substitute for cave management. Our karst resources and endangered species are at greater risk now that before cave closure became the mantra of Dr Bliehert and the USFWS.
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