Conservation recruits get cave training

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Conservation recruits get cave training

Postby jonsdigs » Oct 6, 2006 10:41 pm

Conservation recruits get cave training

By Harold J. Adams
hjadams@courier-journal.com
The Courier-Journal

Two dozen people who want to be Indiana Conservation officers went underground with their efforts Friday as their training took them into a wild cave in the Harrison Crawford State Forest.

Only 24 recruits remain from more than 500 people who applied for the 18 conservation officer jobs that will be filled in January.

They spent Friday morning climbing, crawling and squeezing their way through the passages of Langdon Cave.

Lt. Kerry Griffith, the training commander, said the idea was to prepare the recruits for the conditions they would face if they were involved in a cave rescue.

Some of the candidates were familiar with caving, while some others had no previous spelunking experience. They are completing the 13th week of a 16-week training course that leads to graduation on Oct. 27.

Reporter Harold Adams can be reached at (812) 949-4028.

http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061006/NEWS02/61006034

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Postby batrotter » Oct 7, 2006 8:53 am

These are the same guys in Indiana from the DNR Law Enforcement Division that are trying to muscle there way into cave rescue. They came to the Indiana Cave Survey wanting us to hand over cave locations located on state property. We refused to give them any locations.
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Postby NZcaver » Oct 7, 2006 1:57 pm

batrotter wrote:These are the same guys in Indiana from the DNR Law Enforcement Division that are trying to muscle there way into cave rescue. They came to the Indiana Cave Survey wanting us to hand over cave locations located on state property. We refused to give them any locations.

I'm not trying to be inflammatory, but I am curious. Why not share cave locations on state land with them - or at least try to strike up a more positive relationship?

If you say they're trying to "muscle" into cave rescue, there's obviously some attitude/politics involved here. But during an actual rescue, is it possible DNR LEOs might be the ones responsible for managing an incident on state land? If they're smart, they'd work on keeping a good relationship with cavers so they have experienced volunteers to help them out. An "us and them" mentality is seldom beneficial to either party. Or am I missing something here?

Here's another article on the training, with photos.
http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbc ... /610070371

(I guess this thread should probably be under rescue, instead of conservation...)
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Postby cob » Oct 7, 2006 8:42 pm

NZcaver wrote:[An "us and them" mentality is seldom beneficial to either party. Or am I missing something here?


no offense NZ... but what you are missing is the preconceived "us and them" mentality that "they" already come to it with. They are the "professionals"...

I have stood at a cave entrance with flood waters pulsing out of the cave that had already pushed bodies out of it, stood there feeling nothing but excitement and ready to go in, while looking at the white faced fire captain with releif all over his face, because he didn't have to go in...

And yet the next day, after bringing out all the bodies, "we" (I was not there the next day) had to face a whole lot of resentment because "we" did not bring the lone survivor out the expected entrance and the "pros" did not get the expected photo ops....

There is a diff between us and them.... "We" think being underground is normal, natural... "they" think running into burning buildings is "Normal, natural"... but they won't give us the respect due, and they don't understand, when we won't give out cave locations just because they are the "professionals"....

All too often, just because somebody is from the gov't, they think that gives them the right to everything.

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Postby NZcaver » Oct 7, 2006 10:06 pm

cob wrote:no offense NZ... but what you are missing is the preconceived "us and them" mentality that "they" already come to it with. They are the "professionals"...

<snip>

There is a diff between us and them.... "We" think being underground is normal, natural... "they" think running into burning buildings is "Normal, natural"... but they won't give us the respect due, and they don't understand, when we won't give out cave locations just because they are the "professionals"....

All too often, just because somebody is from the gov't, they think that gives them the right to everything.

tom

No offense taken, Tom. I won't disagree with some of your points. There must be untold examples of poor management and 'uncooperation' in such incidents - I've seen some of this with my own eyes. (Especially the "treat the cave like a burning building" mentality...) :roll: Two things, though. First, don't tar all of "them" with the same brush. Thankfully many rescue folks (especially those who are wilderness and cave SAR trained) are easier to deal with than the ones you described. And second, respect is a 2-way street.

One of the best ways to help the two cultures work together smoothly is for them to have already trained together. And frankly, sometimes it's a few of the cavers that have problems showing up on time for training with all their sh!t together - not usually the agency people. But I digress. Once the groups do begin training and/or practicing together, the wheels start turning in people's heads and inevitably the barriers recede. With the help of instructors (who are often primarily cavers with rescue background) some of the staunch attitudes slowly soften. It does take some work, but I've seen it happen many, many times - and it's a beautiful thing.

It's easy to get frustrated with the whole rescue process when you (the caver) show up to help, and everything doesn't go the way you think it should. Just take a deep breath and try to learn from the process. Then after it's over, perhaps one would do better to build bridges rather than hiding under rocks and slinging mud at the bad agency people from the government (aka your local/state/federal Law Enforcement/Fire/EMS etc).

Just my 2 cents...
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Postby cob » Oct 8, 2006 4:48 pm

There is another reason for not giving them cave locations, one that most just don't get...

If you give the locations to them, they become "Public Domain", and anyone with a FOIA request can get them. The MSS was recently faced with a dilemma here when for a bridge project MODOT asked for locations etc around the project. If the MSS gave them, the locations were there for anyone to read in the Environmental Impact Statement...

What to do, what to do....

The MSS gave them and hoped nobody read it all that close. A hard choice to make. You tell one, they tell 6, those 6 each tell 6 others, etc etc. Something no Agency person seems to understand.

It is sad, but "I'm from the gov't. I'm here to help you." are the last words many of us want to hear.
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Postby Teresa » Oct 8, 2006 6:29 pm

It's rather a moot point with the MSS, since the MSS has a signed agreement specifying the conditions of data sharing of the MSS with the state agencies.

This cuts two ways. The agency people also share information with us, and actually a fair amount of MSS data is that collected by the state and feds on company time.

Sharing cave locations with state or federal agencies does NOT make them subject to FOIA requests, IF the information shared is considered and treated as proprietary, with dispersal limited to coded references (such as the way archeological sites are treated--the codes go into the report; only the officials who have the info on a proprietary/need to know basis know specifically what the codes mean.) It also helps, with any such sharing, to cite the legislation and/or agreements under which the confidentiality is maintained.

The concern over the MODOT EIS was that the locations were then distributed to the public at public hearings via EIS, and it was the public dispersal which was the problem, not the agency use. In short, someone goofed in preparing the report. Specific locations do NOT need to go into EIS's-- I've read enough lead mining EIS's to know that prospecting or mining proposals are often marked only to the nearest township. Mining companies, too, don't want other mining companies to know specific locations of prospects.

If a particular township is karsted, the public is going to know that already.

In reference to NZ's comment: sometimes 'us' and 'them' exist in the same brain. It's actually better if some people understand both sides intimately, because those folks can run interference, and make sure that gaffes like the MODOT one don't happen, while maximizing the good uses cave locations can be put to--you can't save what you don't know, or won't admit is there.
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Postby batrotter » Oct 9, 2006 7:42 am

NZcaver wrote:I'm not trying to be inflammatory, but I am curious. Why not share cave locations on state land with them - or at least try to strike up a more positive relationship?

If you say they're trying to "muscle" into cave rescue, there's obviously some attitude/politics involved here. But during an actual rescue, is it possible DNR LEOs might be the ones responsible for managing an incident on state land? If they're smart, they'd work on keeping a good relationship with cavers so they have experienced volunteers to help them out. An "us and them" mentality is seldom beneficial to either party. Or am I missing something here?


OK, I'll explain further. Several years ago, the state of Indiana passed a law requiring a caving permit on state property. Most of us didn't see a reason for a permit, but we had to have one. My thoughts are that the permit was to get a foot in the door and eventually make the permit into a license similar to hunting and fishing. If you are caught without a hunting or fishing license, you can have your guns, equipment, boat and/or vehicle confiscated. And you may not get them back. What if the cave permit eventually had the same provisions?

A conservation officer appeared at a fellow caver's workplace saying that he wanted the cave locations at one state property and that they would also be wanting locations for other properties. He was asked why and replied that the state was forming a cave rescue team from the law enforcement division of the DNR. He also said that all future cave rescues would be handled by the DNR and not by cavers.

The officer was told that if he wanted locations, he would have to join the Indiana Cave Survey and then he would have access to cave locations. He refused to do that. We also told him we could work with his higher ups to secure a memorandum of understanding protecting the cave locations. He refused that alos. As someone earlier posted, when you turn info over to a governmental entity, that info is subject to the FOIA.

The property managers already know the cave locations. Why don't the LEOs go to the property managers and get the locations?

The only real reason that they want the locations is to harrass cavers. If they know where the caves are then they can set up a sting. You can bet that they will be staking out caves just waiting to give you a ticket. If I'm going to be harrassed by the law, then I'm not going to help them by telling them where I frequent.
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Postby cob » Oct 9, 2006 8:41 am

Teresa wrote:It's rather a moot point with the MSS, since the MSS has a signed agreement specifying the conditions of data sharing of the MSS with the state agencies.
This cuts two ways. The agency people also share information with us, and actually a fair amount of MSS data is that collected by the state and feds on company time.


True, but...

Sharing cave locations with state or federal agencies does NOT make them subject to FOIA requests, IF the information shared is considered and treated as proprietary


not being a lawyer, I am unsure of this 2nd point. I stay out of these kinds of... "politics", if that's the right word. I tend to hear of these things 2nd hand. (at least I had the "facts" of the MODOT thing right, if not the timing of them... oh well, "Mea culpa")

There have been other such... "controversies" ("situations" may be a better word), and, from the caver side, the attitude of the Agency person was a bit... "demanding", and, in one case, they wanted WAY too much information. This is a common perception, which anyone who has ever been pulled over by a cop can attest to (just try and say "No, you can't search my vehicle.") That same attitude exists in all gov't people to varying degrees, tho with some it is rather minimal. While any "land manager" has an obvious right to know where and what caves they have (how else can they manage them), does the same right extend to "law enforcement"? I cannot speak to the particulars of batrotters situation, but I can say this:

We cavers tend to be rather jealous of our hard won locations, maps, etc. Agency people quite often treat us as something... "less" than they, and it seems to go double when they are from law enforcement. They don't understand our motives, and care even less. We are having "fun", "playing" around in the caves. If I could get one such person to go on an 8-12 hour survey trip, I am sure they would have a whole lot more respect for what it is we do, but that is unlikely.

The "us-they" attitude exists on both sides, and while it is great to talk of "bridge building", all too often they want to build the bridge out of our "materials", from our "side of the river", and it is "one-way" traffic.

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Postby Uncle Muddy » Oct 9, 2006 2:50 pm

Quite a few caves that have been discovered, explored, mapped and inventoried by folks like ourselves are eventually acquired by a government agency. That's not ALWAYS a bad thing. But way too often the acquiring agency decides to protect the cave from the very people who did all the work. The standard response is, "We need to save the cave." The logical question would be, "For whom are we saving the cave?" Answer: "Our children." It's the "our" that needs to be defined. It too often seems that the agency respondent really means "my" children or the greater group of those who wear a badge. A friend and I assisted an agency geologist several years ago on a trip to a gated cave that is seldom granted entry permits for mere cavers. My friend found a number of Pleistocene bones on the way in. Though this cave had borne the footsteps of a hundred scientists and agency folks, nobody had noticed these bones. Wanting, really wanting to explore a cave should perhaps be regarded as reason enough to consider issuance of an entry permit. Agents would do well to line up a few hoops for cavers to jump through just to make sure they REALLY WANT to go there. They would better serve the cause of conservation by acknowledging the value of a person's sincere desire to go there. After all, Columbus didn't even own a boat. He just really, really wanted to sail.
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Postby Uncle Muddy » Oct 9, 2006 2:50 pm

Quite a few caves that have been discovered, explored, mapped and inventoried by folks like ourselves are eventually acquired by a government agency. That's not ALWAYS a bad thing. But way too often the acquiring agency decides to protect the cave from the very people who did all the work. The standard response is, "We need to save the cave." The logical question would be, "For whom are we saving the cave?" Answer: "Our children." It's the "our" that needs to be defined. It too often seems that the agency respondents really mean "my" children or the greater group of those who wear a badge. A friend and I assisted an agency geologist several years ago on a trip to a gated cave that is seldom granted entry permits for mere cavers. My friend found a number of Pleistocene bones on the way in. Though this cave has borne the footsteps of a hundred scientists and agency folks, nobody had noticed these bones. Wanting, really wanting to explore a cave should perhaps be regarded as reason enough to consider issuance of an entry permit. Agents would do well to line up a few hoops for cavers to jump through just to make sure they REALLY WANT to go there. They would better serve the cause of conservation by acknowledging the value of a person's sincere desire to go there. After all, Columbus didn't even own a boat. He just really, really wanted to sail.
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Postby Teresa » Oct 9, 2006 8:48 pm

batrotter--
If this conservation officer just showed up at a caver's workplace and demanded locations, he likely should have been reported to his superiors for not going through channels, because it is fairly obvious he did not, and as the caver was not engaged in caving, it doesn't seem likely that he had any jurisdiction in what he was doing. Referring him to the Indiana Cave Survey was the best course of action.
It just sounds like you were dealing with someone who was trying to make brownie points in some manner. I think that caver followed the best course of action, as, in essence, the LEO was trying to conduct a 'search' (of the person's brain) without a warrant or even common courtesy.

Revealing information to a government official does not automatically subject that information to FOIA from a third party, especially since FOIA is a federal law and only applies directly to federal agencies. All states have some form of sunshine or open government laws, but the precise nature of those laws varies quite widely. For example, if a government agency in Missouri conducts work under contract for a private firm, the results of that contracted work is NOT automatically public information, even though the metadata: the general subject of the work, the amount paid, who worked on it and so forth are matters of public record.

It's picky, yes, and it's a pain that one has to investigate these things for one's self, and get 50 different answers one for every state, but the best defense against such government abuses is to find out the laws yourself, and stand one's ground, while at the same time cooperating on things which can be cooperated with.

Government is like a blackberry bush: it can yield the choicest fruit, but it can rip your clothes and scratch you into a bloody mess in the process.
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Postby batrotter » Oct 10, 2006 5:19 am

Yes, the conservation did just show up and demand cave locations. You are probably right, he should have been reported. The CO probably was trying to make brownie points plus he was trying to intimidate us. We have several CO's in this area that are that way.
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