USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8.

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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby caverdan » Apr 22, 2014 9:58 am

bigredfoote wrote:Comments are due by May 9.

I try to take as many USFS personnel into caves as I can, so they can actually understand why we like going in and how best they can care for the land. Region 2 USFS allows for recreational caving, but requires "registration".

It's all about what you actually do.
Jennifer, that "registration" requires "approvel" before you are "permitted" to go. Call it what you want.....what you got is a "permit" system.
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby Extremeophile » Apr 22, 2014 11:14 am

caverdan wrote:Call it what you want.....what you got is a "permit" system.

I think every caver recognizes that it's a permit system. The USFS has been insistent that it's an "authorization" or "registration" system, and that there's a very real difference. We argued against the need for this, but in the end it seemed like something the FS wasn't willing to compromise on. They felt it was necessary to ensure cavers weren't visiting caves that had seasonal restrictions, to use the authorization system as a means to communicate and validate acceptance of decon requirements, and to begin collecting data on cave visitation habits for future management decisions. There are a number of hypothetical concerns like the collection of this data could result in more closures or cave gatings, or that the authorization system might become a permit system with an associated pay to play fee. So far none of these fears have become reality and getting authorization has been fairly simple and painless. It's important to note that the Region 2 caving community did not endorse or approve this approach. We provided input, but in the end the FS did what they wanted to do. I think they have made an honest effort to balance the demands and views of those who would like to see every cave closed forever (e.g. CBD), and those who would like full access without any restrictions. What we have now is certainly better than the blanket cave closure policy that was in place from 2010-2012.
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby caverdan » Apr 23, 2014 8:54 am

If the USFS definition of "permit" involves a transfer of money, then I guess I'm wrong to call it a "permit.
On that same note, it it wasn't for Derek and crew, the caves in region 2 would still be closed to all visitation. Y'all deserve a round of applause. :clap: :clap: :clap:

bigredfoote wrote:I try to take as many USFS personnel into caves as I can, so they can actually understand why we like going in and how best they can care for the land. Region 2 USFS allows for recreational caving, but requires "registration".


Jennifer, I'm glad there are people like you to educate them and I apologize for my snarky remarks about permits. I'm too old and opinionated to do much good in educating them. The ones in the offices here change positions so fast it is hard to get to know them. Colorado is but a pit stop in their career. They also want cavers to do the work for them and send them our info in digital format. I just don't see them taking the time to actually go caving with me. :down:

Time for me to crawl back into my hole......without permission of coarse. :big grin:
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby DawgsgoCaving » Apr 28, 2014 3:42 pm

Derek- what kinds of sanctions were put into place for any cavers who did not abide by the statute? How many caves in your part of the country were gated? I'm just curious about general stuff like that. Sorry to ask, I was never up-to-date with the state of the sport before I actually got involved with it.

Thanks.
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby Extremeophile » Apr 28, 2014 10:30 pm

DawgsgoCaving wrote:Derek- what kinds of sanctions were put into place for any cavers who did not abide by the statute? How many caves in your part of the country were gated?

The USFS Region 2 closure order was originally signed in July, 2010 and was an administrative closure of all caves and mines. There were no gates installed, but signs were posted at a number of the better known caves. Entering a cave was made a crime with the threat of jail time and fines. It's my understanding that no warnings, citations, or arrests were ever made during the nearly 4 years since the original closure order.

During the 3rd year of the closure (Jul, 2012 - Jul, 2013) an exemption was added for organizations that had a MOU with the FS, i.e. the NSS and CRF. Cavers were able to apply for written authorization to visit caves that weren't bat-sensitive, but a trip report had to be submitted, and the reasons for visiting a cave had to include something beyond recreation. Most trips were described as "monitoring" trips where bat activities, vandalism, etc. could be reported.

During the 4th year of the closure (current year: Aug, 2013 - Aug, 2014) the exemption was broadened to include everyone, and the restricted bat caves were specifically listed with restrictions based on the type of activity. The only downside is that the latest written authorization system is a bit more cumbersome, but getting approval is generally easy and fast. Monitoring forms are now voluntary.
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby DawgsgoCaving » May 1, 2014 11:37 am

Extremeophile wrote:
DawgsgoCaving wrote:Derek- what kinds of sanctions were put into place for any cavers who did not abide by the statute? How many caves in your part of the country were gated?
The only downside is that the latest written authorization system is a bit more cumbersome


A lot of that sounds very cumbersome, but you gotta do what you gotta do I suppose. I'm curious to see how it will pan out down here. I have a pretty good idea of what will happen. Apparently, they've been pushing for Georgia to do the same thing since 2008- like I said, though, I'm just discovering a lot of this stuff so forgive me if I come across as uninformed or redundant.
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby Extremeophile » May 1, 2014 1:28 pm

If you're interested in the specifics of cave access in Region 2, an explanation and links to the FS forms can be found at:
http://www.coloradocavesurvey.org
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby DawgsgoCaving » May 2, 2014 10:03 am

Thanks, Derek!
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby bigredfoote » May 8, 2014 8:50 pm

The National Speleological Society expresses concerns with your proposal to close all caves in the Southern Region for five years.

Your proposal states that the five year closure period will allow development of bio-control techniques and minimize the human spread of P.d.. However, it is unlikely that a five year blanket closure of caves in the Southern Region will have any effect on either of those. This is an extensive period to not consider and adjust management practices to changing local needs, new management techniques, or new science.

Large portions of the Southern Region are already saturated with the disease; closing all caves in these areas will not affect the spread. USFS Region 8 is very large and applying a blanket policy over areas with differing needs typically does not work well.

Though human transmission could be possible, bat to bat transmission is believed to be the primary vector (https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/sites ... poster.pdf). As an alternative to blanket closures to minimize the potential for human spread of P.d., scientifically approved decontamination (https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/sites ... .25.12.pdf) has been proven to be effective at killing the fungus, and would be a proven, viable alternative that allows for visitation of caves.

During the existing blanket closure of the area P.d. has continued to spread. Closing caves to responsible cavers allows unsupervised access to those who do not follow procedure. (Unintended Results of Blanket Cave Closures: a Story about Fern Cave http://www.caves.org/WNS/Fern%20Cave%20Graffiti.pdf).

USFS Region 2 performed an EA that considered an option allowing recreational caving for members of the National Speleological Society and Cave Research Foundation that are consistent with the MOU between these organizations under the exceptions to closures clause contained in http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOC ... 414178.pdf. Locally, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is planning to reopen several caves this year.

The National Speleological Society supports bat conservation by continuing seasonal closures of sensitive bat roosts, however blanket closures have proven to be ineffective. It is through our continual research that we are able to identify transient roosting sites, and to forward this information to the proper authorities along with our membership. Together we are able to monitor and assist with the critical research required.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this proposal.
Sincerely,
Jennifer Foote
NSS WNS Liaison
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby Scott McCrea » May 8, 2014 9:05 pm

:clap: :bananabat: :clap:
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby PYoungbaer » May 9, 2014 11:35 am

Ditto that.
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby driggs » May 19, 2014 11:22 am

Here's the letter I sent. I am encouraging A) Forest-level targeted management, and B) caver agreements like that established in R2, and like the one we're working toward here in WV. Feel free to use it as "inspiration" in your own comments, but please do not copy any of my text verbatim.

Jen, thanks for sending that excellent NSS letter! :kewl:
_________________________________


Liz Agpaoa
Regional Forester
USDA Forest Service


Ms. Agpaoa,

I am writing today with comments on the USDA Forest Service's proposed five-year region-wide "blanket" cave closure for the Southeastern Region (R8). My name is David Riggs, I'm a coordinator of the West Virginia Speleological Survey, and I currently serve on the working group to establish a cave management policy on the Monongahela National Forest (R9) along with several Forest Service employees, as well as representatives of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the WV Division of Natural Resources.

First, and most importantly, I want to stress that the Southeast Region is far too large a unit to manage with a single sweeping closure policy; cave closures should be applied on a Forest-by-Forest basis. The Southeast Region accounts for just over 25% of the area of the entire continental United States. Managing caves in Virginia with the same policy as caves in Texas simply because they fall under a common managerial office is a way to ensure that neither states' resources are appropriately handled. Cave closures and similar drastic management policies should be applied at the Forest level, with a focus on each Forest's own needs, not region-wide.

Secondly, the cave environment encompasses many fragile resources; blanket cave closures, with their sole focus on bats, neglect the management of all other cave resources. The Forest Service depends on public volunteers to provide "eyes and ears" into its cave and karst resources, as well as for conservation of those resources. Responsible, organized cavers provide the Forest Service with up-to-date data on issues like karst groundwater contamination, vandalism, new biological records, archeological and cultural artifacts, newly discovered caves and cave passages, etc. If you speak to those who maintain the cave records for each of your individual National Forests, you will find that the source of those records are the very people you are banning from caves. Would you consider ignoring the management of every facet of a fragile wetland for five years?

I urge you to do the following:

- Do NOT issue region-wide cave closures; rather, allow cave management decisions to happen at the Forest level, where those decisions can be tailored for the individual needs of each Forest.

- Prefer targeted management of known critical bat caves so that other resource and management needs are not ignored. Blanket closures are counterproductive to the needs of fragile cave resources.

- In accordance with the Forest Service's existing Memoranda of Understanding with The National Speleological Society and The Cave Research Foundation, and by fostering relationships with local statewide cave survey organizations, implement cave access policies which maintain the ongoing data collection, scientific research, conservation, and resource inventory necessary to maintain your cave and karst resources. Again, blanket closures do more harm than good to these precious resources.

I hope that these comments aid you in your decision-making process. Agencies are understandably in a bind given the severity and speed with which White-Nose Syndrome has spread amongst hibernating and migrating bats. The lessons learned from the Northeast show that the knee-jerk reaction of blanket cave closures are an unsuitable and damaging management strategy. My goal in writing is to encourage you to learn from these lessons, and implement sane policies which can help maintain our imperiled bat species while simultaneously protecting the numerous other fragile resources found only in caves.

Please feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss any of these matters further, or if I can be of any help in establishing relationships similar to those we are currently fostering between the West Virginia Speleological Survey and the Monongahela National Forest.

Sincerely,


David A. Riggs
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby trogman » May 19, 2014 4:35 pm

Very well written letter, David! Hopefully they will actually read it and act on it.

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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby bigredfoote » May 19, 2014 8:26 pm

Agreed! Will add some of these to my "future" list of talking points!
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Re: USFS calling for 5 year closure of all caves in Region 8

Postby driggs » May 20, 2014 6:51 pm

I received the following reply:

David: Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Our intention is not to close caves to those you refer to as "responsible, organized cavers". The way the closure is worded allows local Forest Service officials to provide written authorization to individuals for entry for the purpose of helping us with our cave resource management. What I refer to as caving with a purpose. We could not authorize a group to just go caving, but we certainly could authorize entry to map, perform biological inventories, water quality monitoring, WNS surveys, place data loggers, etc. Responsible cavers know about WNS and know about having to decontaminate their gear. We want to keep the uninformed and irresponsible people out of the fragile cave environments because they do not decontaminate or respect these systems.

Thanks again, Dennis

Dennis L. Krusac, Certified Wildlife Biologist
Endangered species Specialist
USDA Forest Service


I commend him for having the right attitude... but we know how well blanket cave closures have served to keep "uninformed and irresponsible people" out of fragile caves.
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