USFS Rocky Mountain Region Reopens Closed Caves

Black Hills Ponderosa Pines.

Black Hills Ponderosa Pines. Photo by Iburiedpaul/flickr

After being closed for the past three years, most caves of US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region are once again open to the public.

Effective today, a new adaptive management strategy replaces an emergency cave closure that has been in place throughout the region’s national forests and grasslands in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and Kansas since 2010 when Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, was discovered in Oklahoma.

Although both WNS and P. destructans have yet to be confirmed in the Rocky Mountain Region, the adaptive management approach includes proactive measures to limit the likelihood of introducing the fungus to caves by humans and helps protect bat populations before the disease arrives.

These measures include mandatory advanced registration to access caves and compulsory decontamination at all caves, with no clothing and equipment used in states/provinces where white-nosed syndrome is found or suspected allowed at all. In addition, all known bat hibernacula are closed during the winter hibernation period.

For more information on the Adaptive Management Strategy, specifically how the new measures affect cavers, visit the region’s Information For Cavers page.

Adaptive Management Strategy for White-nose Syndrome [US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region]

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  1. August 3, 2013 at 5:55 am

    Cavers should know that this is the result of a sustained three-year effort by the NSS, the Colorado Cave Survey, the 2011 NSS Convention Committee, and other local grottos and cavers. The NSS filed a formal protest after the initial closure order, which resulted in no less than a direct order by the Secretary of Agriculture, under whom the Forest Service is housed, to work with the NSS to re-open caves for the 2011 Convention. Subsequent meetings and phone calls, and a session during the convention got people working on an alternative to the closure order. As a result, last year the USFS Region 2 granted exemptions to the closure order to NSS and CRF members for the broad list of caving activities covered by the national Memorandum of Understanding negotiated by the NSS’ Government Relations Chair and the USFS and adopted by the Board of Governors. They also tested an early version of the cave visitation system, including the pre-registration and trip report forms. This year, the NSS again filed formal comments during the Environmental Assessment process, along with a number of the other caving entities and individuals. This sustained collaborative effort led to the re-openings announced this spring, allowing the closure order to expire. The thoroughness of that effort even overcame an appeal filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, which was denied. Some have griped that the NSS and Board of Governors haven’t done anything, but the facts are otherwise.

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