By Richard Rhinehart ~ October 1st, 2010. Filed under: Cave Survey, Caving News, Conservation.
Cavers attending the 2011 National Speleological Society Convention in Glenwood Springs, Colorado may have the opportunity to visit caves in the White River National Forest after all.
Although a region-wide closure of caves and non-active mines will remain in effect during the July 18-22, 2011 convention, foresters from the White River National Forest and USFS Region 2 in Golden, Colorado are working with the Colorado Cave Survey and the National Speleological Society in developing a special use permit system that will allow selected caves to be reopened for convention participants. The language of the July 27, 2010 blanket closure order by Deputy Regional Forester Tony Dixon allows for commercial groups and other special interest parties to gain access to Forest caves.
At a September 7 teleconference between the NSS, the Cave Survey, the White River National Forest and the USFS Region 2 office, representatives of the Society reported that at the organizationâ€™s 2010 convention in Burlington, Vermont, cavers visiting caves had to undertake White Nose Syndrome decontamination following their underground visits. In addition, the convention provided loaner gear for cavers from outside the region, so that they could leave their gear at home and not accidently transmit spores from the Geomyces destructans pathogen to other regions of the country. Such practices at the 2011 convention in Glenwood Springs could protect Colorado caves and bats from contamination.
It is also possible that such a permitting system might be adapted for visitation to caves within the national forests of Region 2. An online permitting system with instructions for decontamination of cave visitors would be a good plan for USFS caves throughout the Rocky Mountain Region. The Bureau of Land Management is considering a similar free permitting system, possibly to be administered through an online website. Such a permit process can keep track of visits to caves and also allow for cave visitors and the public to report any sightings of bats, increasing knowledge of bats within the region. If the pathogen arrives in Colorado and infects bats, it will be important for the public to report to bat biologists any unusual instances of bat behavior, such as bats flying in winter or in the daylight.
The Colorado Cave Survey will consider plans for a special use cave permit process for Forest caves at its October 2 meeting in Glenwood Springs.Tags: 2011 NSS Convention, access, cave, closure, Colorado, Colorado Cave Survey, US Forest Service, White Nose Syndrome