By Richard Rhinehart ~ July 9th, 2010. Filed under: Caving News, Conservation.
Colorado cavers have been notified that all Colorado, South Dakota and most Wyoming caves with the US Forest Service will be closed the week of July 12, 2010 owing to the presence of the White Nose Syndrome fungus in a state-owned cave in west-central Oklahoma.
Here is the official Colorado Cave Survey notification from chair David Lambert of Denver:
Carl and I have received word that US Forest Service Region 2 plans to announce early next week, a Special Order for closing all caves region-wide in response to White Nose Syndrome. Region 2 includes all Forest and Grasslands within Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, most of Wyoming and most of South Dakota. This order will be in effect for 12 months. We have been told that re-opening any of the affected caves by subsequent Special Order or permit is extremely unlikely in the next 12 months. One place the announcement will be posted is the Region 2 website: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/
The plan for the closures will consist of two steps. First, education of the cave-visiting public that a closure is in effect. Second, some trails which are primarily used to access caves will be closed.
There are a number of issues to discuss and decisions for the CCS to make in the coming days and weeks. Among these, the USFS is requesting help in placing signs at cave entrances to notify the public of the closure. The USFS also inquired whether the CCS would like to be identified or have a logo placed on the signs. The CCS will also need to decide what to do about access at Fly and Marble Caves. Carl Bern has spoken with the landowner Larry Blackwell and Larry will follow the CCS decision on this issue. We will be keeping the organized caving community informed, notifying CCS reps of upcoming votes, and we may have a special meeting of the CCS in the near future.
At this time caves on BLM land remain open. However, the BLM has indicated that they want their response to be in coordination with the USFS and so a similar closure on BLM lands may be expected. Decision-making by the BLM had been occurring at the state level, but the Washington Office is now stepping in.
The decision to close caves anywhere is always difficult and controversial. It should be noted though that land managing agencies, caver-run cave conservancies, and private cave owners across the eastern U.S. and into the west have come to similar conclusions regarding this course of action for dealing with WNS. As fellow cavers who share your passion, we know that cave closures are a bitter pill, particularly in the middle of summer. However, let us remember that over one million bats are estimated to have died from WNS and certain species face extinction. Cavers rightfully consider themselves to be stewards of the underground world. Across the west, our claim to that identity will be measured to some extent by our support for these closures. While the USFS Region 2 decision was made without involvement from Carl or myself, we respect its necessity and support the closure. We hope that the caving community as a whole will also respect and support the closure. As this situation continues to evolve, the Colorado Cave Survey will continue, as always, to advocate for both cave conservation and cave ACCESS.
Yours in caving,
Dave Lambert / Chairman / Colorado Cave Survey
Carl Bern / Vice-Chairman / Colorado Cave Survey
The US Forest Service Region 2 office in Golden, Colorado has confirmed the pending closure, as has a representative with the White River National Forest.
July 21, 2010 Update
The closure order promised by US Forest Service officials for the Rocky Mountain Region has been delayed. Though originally stated to be issued by the District 2 Region office the week of July 12, the USFS is now expected to issue a decision sometime before the end of July, 2010. Although the Colorado Cave Survey, the National Speleological Society and Bat Conservation International have suggested a targeted closure of specific bat caves within the forests will be a better plan, USFS officials reportedly are still interested in a full blanket closure of caves and inactive mines for at least a one year period. In addition, USFS Region 3 – Arizona and New Mexico – are also considering blanket closures.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management is indicating it is reviewing possible options for potential closures, perhaps on a targeted basis. Wyoming BLM may close only two caves on BLM lands in the state, each containing bat colonies.Tags: bats, caves, closure, Colorado, South Dakota, US Forest Service, White Nose Syndrome, Wyoming