The Publishing of Cave Locations....

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Postby tncaver » Oct 11, 2007 5:10 pm

NZ,
I would like to know the answer to your question myself.
It was hinted to me by one of the persons present at the recent
cave gating that perhaps the landowner was coerced or
legally forced into gating his cave due to the presence of endangered
bats and a purported petroglyph. What I'm getting at is that this gating may not have been completely voluntary for the landowner. Since I
wasn't there myself I can not verify or
deny this. I have written the landowner and received no reply,
therefore I can not provide information direct from the horses
mouth. But if our government is now forcing cave owners to gate
caves against their will in the name of habitat or due to artifacts,
then that is way too much Big Brother to suit me. Sorry I can not be of more help on this subject. Those who know what is going on are not talking. The cave has no visitation management plan that I know of. If what I heard is correct, I can see why. A pissed off landowner rarely
lets cavers visit the cave that was involved. It was cavers that built the gate and were at the heart of this issue.
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Postby wyandottecaver » Oct 11, 2007 5:49 pm

hey nothing a oxy torch can't fix :P....just kidding. ultimately, there is no resolution to the issue beyond he who owns the caves makes the rules. there will always be disagreements as to what consitutes reasonable public access, there will always be disagreements about publishing data, and there will always be those who abuse the information and caves they access.

As a caver I am against gating because I want to visit caves without hoops to jump through and because the fewer people who can get in a cave the fewer people who care if it is blown up for gravel, paved for wallmarts, or filled with sewage. both Kartchner Caverns and Rumbling Falls "went public" to fight impending threats. But I also realize that there are far more caves available for me to visit just in Indiana (i've visited nearly 300) than I ever will or can in my lifetime so even if the "good" ones get gated there are always others...including the ones we dig open!

As a biologist I wish every cave owner gated every significant cave and decided access individually so that there would be at least 1 layer of protection even if it was poor, for a resource that is irreplacable in the context of human lifespans. It is the ultimate form of arrogance to think that we must, should, or have a right, to visit anywhere or everywhere just because we want to.

So, bottom line, drive a jalopy, live in a shack, shop at goodwill, and buy a cave (or several), gate it, allow responsible access. contribute to a cave conservancy you like, Run for office, get elected, change the rules for public land, otherwise just man up and go caving somewhere else. That's MY answer :P
I'm not scared of the dark, it's the things IN the dark that make me nervous. :)
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Postby tncaver » Oct 11, 2007 6:09 pm

Wyandottecaver wrote:
So, bottom line, drive a jalopy, live in a shack, shop at goodwill, and buy a cave (or several), gate it, allow responsible access. contribute to a cave conservancy you like, Run for office, get elected, change the rules for public land, otherwise just man up and go caving somewhere else. That's MY answer :P

Sounds like a cavers utopia from yesteryear. Maybe history will repeat
itself with lessons learned by us all.
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Postby wyandottecaver » Oct 11, 2007 6:22 pm

It was hinted to me by one of the persons present at the recent
cave gating that perhaps the landowner was coerced or
legally forced into gating his cave due to the presence of endangered
bats

Hmmm This is a topic I actually can comment on with some degree of competence :) While the landowner may have been "bamboozled" he does NOT have a legal requirement to gate a cave to protect an endangered species ..I doubt he does for archeological purposes either but thats not my area. He does have a requirement not to "harm" with harm being very broadly defined. So, for instance, he might get in muddy waters if he promoted visitatation to the cave during sensitive seasons, even though F&W would still have to prove those actions resulted in some physical impact that was detrimental to an individual animal...hard to do. He certainly could not do something that directly physically damaged the cave life or the cave itself. but he is under no OBLIGATION to gate the cave. F&W is VERY agressive in efforts to protect hibernacula, with good cause since that usually does some good for bats and I'm sure always does good for performance reviews of biologists :)

It is also possible he was directly paid to gate the cave. since the feds and other agencies have money to throw around for that purpose

In general, I support gating caves that are or could be "good" hibernacula so long as responsible off-season visitation is allowed. I am not so supportive of gating caves that are or always will be marginal due to their physical characteristics.
I'm not scared of the dark, it's the things IN the dark that make me nervous. :)
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Postby tncaver » Oct 11, 2007 6:43 pm

The landowner at the cave in question may have received
monetary help gating the cave through the Landowner Incentive
Program (LIP) that the Nature Conservancy and Forestry Service
are possibly using. TNC denied using those funds at that cave
however, their website says they are using LIP funds for watershed
and protective purposes. Sounds like someone isn't telling all.
The person I contacted at TNC has since resigned.
That LIP program does not however pay for all expenses. So the
landowner would still have to foot part of the bill. The big question
is "was it forced upon the landowen"? Maybe not. This landowner
has another large cave that is gated but does have a visitation
management plan. Everything is concerning the newly gated cave
is vague and probably intended to be that way.
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Postby wyandottecaver » Oct 11, 2007 6:59 pm

hmm well I don't want to get too far off topic but I'd expect TNC to buy or lease rather than foot the bill for a "private" property improvement unless they were just acting as bankers for another agency who would pay them back later which they do all the time.
I'm not scared of the dark, it's the things IN the dark that make me nervous. :)
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Postby John Lovaas » Oct 11, 2007 7:04 pm

boogercaver71 wrote:Hikers and climbers do not have restrictions placed upon them on where they can hike or climb.


Well, I've just run out of fingers and toes counting the State and Federal lands I've visited with areas closed to climbing or hiking. But that's just me.

And why do we as cavers always have to "accomplish" something when we go in a cave. I am not talking about picking up trash we might find along the way. Although I do enjoy surveying and restoration work, I sometimes like to go caving just to have fun.


You know, you can have fun accomplishing something. How about that? In addition, cave owners and managers can be concerned about the condition of the cave's aesthetic and ecological features, and may not be prioritizing your perceived need to have "fun".
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Postby wyandottecaver » Oct 11, 2007 7:51 pm

Getting back to the location issue, so long as there is a cave survey or some other organization that "warehouses" cave data in your state, why would you need to publish locations in public bulletins to keep them from getting lost?

I can't really see any upside to publishing location data in a completely public forum. In indiana anyone can request "a little" data. then, if they return trip report forms to help update the data they can request "more". thus anyone can get info to start caving, but it is difficult though not impossible to hijack the data wholesale.

Many people were surprised when we provided GPS locations, descriptions, and maps to about 75 or so caves at open computer kiosks and printers at con07'. It was a decision to provide reasonable access to the caver community for a 1 time event while still protecting other sensitive caves and I think it also helped to "funnel" the masses to caves that were already well visited and where landowner issues were mostly solid. BUT it was a calculated risk with respect to that data set. I saw many people printing off every cave in the set! I just hope they actually get to visit and enjoy all of them :P
I'm not scared of the dark, it's the things IN the dark that make me nervous. :)
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Postby NZcaver » Oct 11, 2007 10:02 pm

wyandottecaver wrote:Many people were surprised when we provided GPS locations, descriptions, and maps to about 75 or so caves at open computer kiosks and printers at con07'. It was a decision to provide reasonable access to the caver community for a 1 time event while still protecting other sensitive caves and I think it also helped to "funnel" the masses to caves that were already well visited and where landowner issues were mostly solid. BUT it was a calculated risk with respect to that data set. I saw many people printing off every cave in the set! I just hope they actually get to visit and enjoy all of them :P

A little off-topic, but I for one did appreciate that effort at the Indiana Convention. I actually got in one some caving one day that week! Kudos to the staff for taking that calculated risk by disclosing those locations and making both the information and those caves easily accessible during the Convention.
Last edited by NZcaver on Oct 12, 2007 4:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby George Dasher » Oct 12, 2007 9:53 am

I'm going back to the original topic...

This is a subject that REALLY wears me out, and (because of that) I have been very hesitant about commenting here.

What wears me out is that everyone has an extreme opinion with no room for compromise.

The cavers, who are interested in science, cave conservation, and enjoying the caves, want no locations published.

The scientists, who are interested in science, cave conservation, and enjoying the caves, want all locations published.

From a conservation point of view, the cavers are more worried about the landowners' feelings, rescues, and vandals.

From the same point of view, the scientists are worred about development, new quarries, and new interstates.

So, who has the worse concerns?

The poor bulletin editor, no matter which route he or she takes, is chastised, sometimes severely, by one or both groups.

My solution has always been to evaluate each cave individually. To be truthful, I've found very few caves require 100% secrecy. And some caves, that are tiny and far from any karst area, REALLY need their locations published--otherwise they are just lost for all time.

And there is something a lot of cavers don't realize, because they only go to the big, popular, and fun caves--the vast majority of caves are tiny. Almost no one wants to go to them and, when they do, they don't want to go back. There are literally 100s of caves for every popular cave that the caving community considers too insignificant to visit.

So: Are caves being closed because their locations are being published with or without the landowners permission?

I don't think so. Caves are being closed because of:

-- too much caver traffic (resulting from generations of cavers passing the locations along by word of mouth. Remember that part about most cavers just going back to the same popular, fun caves),

-- fear of liability,

-- biological reasons,

-- the sale of the land (the new owner wants nothing to do with cavers), and

-- a loss of the older, trusting generation of landowners (and their kids want nothing to do with cavers).


We published a bulletin in central Greenbrier County more than a decade ago. The bulletin contained a location map, and the area included a very popular cave. I later (several years later) asked the landowner if the bulletin had made any difference in the number of people visiting his cave, and his answer was an unequivocal: "No. Not a bit."

Many caves are today threatened by development, etc., and they are caves that can only be saved by the caving community and the public jumping in and trying to save them. So what happens when the locations are "hidden"? One thing that can happen is that the cave can be destroyed or closed before the caving community becomes aware of the problem.

The best option, as I see it, is to publish the location, but limit the bulletin, newsletter, or convention guide to a select group of people, such as the NSS. It is not a perfect solution, but I see no perfect solution in this argument.

And to go back to my original statement: What wears me out on this issue is the extremes that everyone takes with no compromise. This is an issue that should very much be looked cave-by-cave and without hard, 100% rules.

That's all.

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Postby John Lovaas » Oct 12, 2007 10:55 am

Thank you, George.

I apologize if my position seemed too extreme. In a nutshell, I was trying to express the idea that if a cave is gated, there is almost always something you can do for the land owner or manager that will open the gate. And if it does not- well, there are more caves than any of us will ever be able to visit in our lifetimes- even here in the "caveless" Midwest!

And I feel compelled to respond whenever the apocryphal idea of evil conservancies and agencies gating hundreds of apocryphal caves because of some apocryphal threat against an apocryphal landowner, whether it is germain to the thread or not. I realize that "tncaver" mentioned one "verifiable" cave that was gated for the nefarious reasons he mentioned. However, he simply stated that someone on the Internet stated this- and for all we know, Joe Douglass' information was based on what "tncaver" has written here previously! When I think of the definition of "verifiable", I don't think "someone said something on an Internet forum or email list". If that is the case, I will direct "tncaver" to a website that explains how the Jehovah's Witnesses knocking on your door are actually reptilian extraterrestrials(who live in caves, by the way!) who are wearing the hides of humans. It's on a website, therefore it must be true! :-)

And as to your summary of reasons that caves are gated, I can only say "right on." In my experience, it is most often the selfish conduct of cavers- people with helmets and three sources of light- that get caves closed. As recreational cavers, we have to realize that many landowners see our activity as a "taking"- recreation- and yet, we generally do not give back to the landowner, unless we produce a map or compelling images of their cave. The wise hunter always remembers to offer a few choice cuts of venison to the landowner at the close of the season, and the wise caver should realize that if all they do is take from the landowner, then they may wear out their welcome.

In regards to bulletins and locations, I noticed that the MAR bulletins go back to the early 1960s. If their website is up to date, then the most recent bulletin was published in 1996. If "Cavemud" is concerned about those early bulletins somehow offending current landowners, then he'll have to go on a bookburning purge of every grotto newsletter archive and speleobookstore on the planet. I have never seen a regional caving publication from the 1960s that did NOT include detailed location information.

And as to the validity of publishing location information as a way of preserving it, I can only speak to one Wisconsin cave that, for the past two decades, everyone I ever met said was "gone"- submerged by a dam project.

While reviewing 1961 WSS publications for an unrelated project, there, to my amazement, was the detailed location info for for this cave. And based on its location, the cave is alive and well- the dam which had supposedly "submerged" the cave was, in fact, 50 miles downstream of the cave! So detailed documentation has preserved the knowledge of the location of one cave in one state.
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Postby MUD » Oct 12, 2007 12:45 pm

John Lovaas wrote: If "Cavemud" is concerned about those early bulletins somehow offending current landowners, then he'll have to go on a bookburning purge of every grotto newsletter archive and speleobookstore on the planet. .


Did I write that somewhere in this thread??? No! What's done is done. I'm talkin' current here. Publishin' the locations of a cave without the landowners knowin' is another matter. I've personally talked with cave owners and asked them if their cave could be included in a county survey to be published. Some are all for it while others get downright hostile about it! All I'm sayin' is....RESPECT the landowners wishes! If the landowner don't mind, I'll turn it over. As of late I've had a few cave owners wantin' nothin' to do with their cave bein' published in a bulletin. These caves have NEVER been listed anywhere as they are new finds. I won't jeopardize their closure simply because I get to see my name in print or feel the need for everyone to see what we found. Find caves the way I do...go LOOK for them. It's waay good exercise and alot of fun. Just be sure and get the landowner's permission first! :waving:
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Postby John Lovaas » Oct 12, 2007 1:43 pm

Cavemud wrote:Did I write that somewhere in this thread??? No! What's done is done. I'm talkin' current here.


No, you didn't write that- that's why I used the preposition "if", as in IF you were concerned.

I've personally talked with cave owners and asked them if their cave could be included in a county survey to be published. Some are all for it while others get downright hostile about it! All I'm sayin' is....RESPECT the landowners wishes!


Yes- that's good common sense. However, you did bring the MAR into this thread without demonstrating that they've violated a landowner's request for privacy. If you could demonstrate that they did so, I imagine you'd tell us that you communicated that information to them, yes?
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Postby MUD » Oct 12, 2007 2:20 pm

Whoooo-doggies I opened up a can of worms with this thread, huh?! :grin:

Yer right John...ya did say "if"....sorry! :waving:

There are those in the MAR who know my feelins' towards bulletins and landowner issues. This not only pertains to the MAR region. I guess I'm comin' across all wrong here? Sorry I used the MAR as my "scapegoat"...Its just I have experience in that region. Things are certainly different elsewhere I suppose. :oops:
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Postby tncaver » Oct 12, 2007 5:13 pm

More on topic. In most cases, the bulletins I've observed do not
give specific cave locations. Without specific cave locations I don't
think that bulletins harm caves in any way, even if they eventually
are sold to non cavers who would generally not buy those bulletins.
Most bulletins are primarily for the scientific community anyway. Most of those folks are well educated and are not likely to vandalize caves.
However, if bulletins that do contain exact cave locations are sold
to anyone (example: unknown strangers on Ebay), then I think the
bulletins are capable of causing harm to specific caves.
There are individuals who do intentionally cause harm to caves. This
is evidenced by spray paint and broken formations.

As for the cave gating at Zarathustra cave, I also had insider information
from another individual who prefers to remain nameless. That person
is the one who told me the landowner may not have been happy about
the gating. However, even that insider is not telling all. Probably due
to that person's direct involvement with the cave owner. I wish I new ALL
"the facts". However, I don't want to put all the heat on Joe Douglas for
his verifiable statement on Tag-Net stating that LIP funds were used
as well as a Forest or Wildlife Agency.
It is possible that Joe was mistaken because a representative of TNC
did in fact deny that LIP funds were used.
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