The Newsletter of Cave Conservation and Management
Volume 15 |
No. 3 |
Research, Yates Energy Plugs the Well, OHR Conservation Project,
The Cave Conservationist is the official
publication of the Conservation and Management Section of the National
Speleological Society. Distribution is free to members of the Section. Section
membership costs $5 annually and should be mailed to the Secretary. (A
membership form for your convenience is included on page 19.) Additional
complimentary copies are distributed on a temporary basis at the discretion of
the Section to
POSTMASTER: Send address changes to
SUBMISSIONS: Articles and other Cave
Conservationist correspondence should be sent to the Editor. Submissions on
computer disks should be made with 3.5"
Printed by members of the D.C. Grotto and the Potomac Speleological Society.
Cover illustration is by Donovan
Whistler. Denuded Karst on Northern
Visit our World Wide Web site on the Internet at http://www.halcyon.com/samara/nssccms/.
Publisher: Rob Stitt
Vice-Chairman: Jay R. Jorden,
Large: John Hoffelt
· Table of Contents 2
· Notes from the President 2
· CAVE RESTORATION DISPLAY 4
· RESEARCH SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE IN BAT BIOLOGY 4
· Yates Energy Plugs the Well 4
· Dear Batliners 8
· CONSERVATION OF
· Cave vandals: uncovered 10
· Cave Vandalism in
· Sport caving 15
· BCI and bat guano 17
· Section Membership Form 19
· Wind/Jewel Lint Camp Upcoming-Volunteers Needed 20
More than 20 years ago, when I was
At that time, I recommended to the Board,
and they approved, that the
When I was still Conservation Chair I gave out a couple of conservation research grants. As I remember they were to students who were going to do some research for papers. One of the students planned to take water samples in a polluted cave, and was going to use the money to procure sample bottles. But he never finished the project, and to his credit he returned the money.
For the past few years, Dave Jagnow has been trying to give away some money for these grants, with little success. It has reached the point where he has proposed that we discontinue the grants because there appears to be little interest.
One of the reasons for establishing the
separate conservation research grants in the first place was to encourage
research on cave conservation issues. There are, of course, other funds available
for conservation research: The conservation Committee has $2000 per year
available for conservation grants; the Research Advisory Committee has funds
available for general speleological research, and the Board has over the years
supported conservation research with direct grants-the most outstanding example
is the cave use project that was run for many years by John Wilson, now
So the questions should be asked: Do we need conservation research? Are there reasons we been unable to spend the allocated funds? And should we continue to have separate Conservation Research Grants? I submit that the answer to all three questions is YES!
The need for research is obvious. We haven't been as effective in accomplishing our conservation objectives as we should be, and research on a broad variety of topics could help increase that effectiveness.
We probably haven't been able to spend the funds in the past for several reasons. First of all, the amount of money is hardly enough to accomplish a major project with. Second, there has only been passive publicity, if that, about the availability of the grants. Third, many people working on projects that could be considered research fund the work themselves. And finally, we haven't had a mindset and culture that encourages us to think in terms of research in cave conservation, since we are generally busy putting out the fires and don't have time to think about long term things.
Instead of merging the grants back into
Masonry Research [I Found this page on the Internet at http://www.rgu.ac.uk/schools/mcrg/research.htm. The parallels with Cave Conservation Research are amazing. I guess it's all about rocks-rs]
This page contains abstracts on areas which have been or are being researched by the Masonry Conservation Research Group.
Further information and, in some cases, summaries of results are available.
<Picture>Stonecleaning : Effects of stonecleaning methods on Scottish sandstones
Uncontrolled stonecleaning in the past
has caused severe damage to a number sandstone buildings in
Following this research programme, in 1994 the MCRG and Historic Scotland published "Stonecleaning: A Guide for Practitioners". This book summarised the results of two years of research in a form which could be used by stonecleaning practitioners.
<Picture>Aesthetics of cleaning of building sandstones
For further information contact Dr Chris Andrew at email@example.com
<Picture>Stonecleaning : Effects of stonecleaning methods on Scottish granites
Granites are used as building stones in
For more information look here
<Picture>Value assessment of stonecleaning
The cleaning of stone facades can affect the built environment in a number of ways. In addition to changes in the physical state of the stone, the process might also influence:
- the visual perception of the built environment
- associated property market values
- related industries e.g. stone supply, stone repair
- wider environmental values
The research has attempted to investigate these areas in some depth, providing an insight into how they might relate to one another.
<Picture>Algal growth and effects and efficacy of biocides on building sandstones
Extensive green algal growths on sandstone buildings may be considered disfiguring. Biocides are sometimes used to control algal growth on building stones. The effectiveness and the effective lifespans of these biocides varies depending on the composition of the biocide and the characteristics of the sandstone.
<Picture>Factors affecting growth of algae on sandstones after stonecleaning
It has been reported anecdotally that following stonecleaning algal growth or re-growth on buildings occurred very rapidly and in greater abundance than was present prior to stonecleaning. This research attempted to discover how both physical (e.g. grit blasting) and chemical stonecleaning methods can influence the rate of algal growth on sandstones.
<Picture>Biodeterioration by algae
<Picture>Salt decay in building sandstones
Follow the link below to see the salt
weathering connection section-page, I hope you find it so interesting you
cannot leave it until the very end, if not, please send me your comments
anyway. I am doing my PhD within the Masonry Conservation Research Group in
If you agree with me that the
Jim Werker and Val Hildreth-Werker,
Co-Directors of the Resource Preservation Division of the
The museum quality exhibit will be
designed to use with the display fixture currently housed at the Guadalupe
Jim and Val received an
Congratulations to Jim & Val on their continuing conservation efforts!
Cave Softly, and Leave No Trace!
Submitted By: David Jagnow,
Bat Conservation International hereby
announces the availability of student research scholarships. Approximately 9 to
10 grants ranging from $500 to $2,500 will be made in 1997. Grants will go to
research that best helps document the roosting and feeding habitat requirements
of bats, their ecological or economic roles, or their conservation needs. The
application deadline for 1997 scholarships is
[Publisher's Note: Even if the application date is past, you should contact them anyway, as additional scholarships may be available in the future.]
Submitted by: Dave Jagnow,
I just learned today that Yates Energy
has plugged and abandoned its Diamondback Federal No. 1 well that was being
drilled about one and one-half miles northwest of Lechuguilla Cave! I believe
this will probably be the last drilling we will ever see within the Serpentine
Bends area of
I spoke with Kathy Queen, a Bureau of
Land Management drilling inspector at the
We can be proud of
The Diamondback Federal No. 1 was a
financial disaster for Yates Energy, even though they got the
I'm sure Yates Energy is greatly disappointed, but they sure made my day!
I'll post additional information when I get copies of the drilling reports ...
from John Cole
This year's conservation project of the
Ohio Valley Region of the National Speleological Society will be located at
Sunday will be utilized to finish up projects at the various conservation- restoration sites within the cave and to remove all debris and materials, leaving the cave as natural looking as possible. The majority of work will consist of graffiti removal. The project areas will be organized into groups, each group having an informed team leader who will direct the cleanup effort in their project area. Our goal is to return this noteworthy cave to its appearance before the invention of the spray paint canister with minimal impact upon the cave environment. We greatly need your help to realize this goal!
All volunteers should possess the following items:
Any additional materials you think would
be useful (acids, propane torches, Coleman lanterns, extra brushes and
materials) would be appreciated. Your input and expertise are also encouraged.
Please plan now to attend this significant cleanup project and encourage others
to participate. The project will be videotaped and an article describing the
event is planned for submission to the
Take Interstate 75 to Exit 59 (Mount Vernon-Livingston.) Go east off exit ramp (left), then turn left immediately beyond overpass onto Route 1004 (you'll see Jean's Restaurant just up the hill.) Continue on Route 1044 until it comes to a ``T'' (directly beyond railroad tracks and first concrete bridge.) Make a right at "T". When you reach the second concrete bridge, you're nearly there. Continue on paved road for one-quarter mile and look for Great Saltpetre sign on right. Make right into GSP Cave Preserve and follow gravel road down the hill to shelter and campground area. Sign in at Sign-up sheet at shelter. Welcome and Thanks!
Submitted by: Dave Jagnow
David Jagnow (Administrative Division)
Al Krause (Conservation Grants Coordinator)
Don McFarlane (Fauna Protection Coordinator)
Jim Werker & Val Hildreth-Werker (Resource Preservation Division)
Vacant (Government Affairs Division)
Dianna Polidori (Conservation Task Force Division)
Rob Stitt (Conservation & Management Section President)
Committee Reorganization-I have recently
appointed Dianna Polidori as Conservation Task Force Coordinator. Dianna lives
Better Communications-Now that I have
been on e-mail for about 4 months, I am striving to communicate better with all
aspects of cave conservation within the
Educational Materials-I believe education
is the key to cave conservation and preservation. I have recently (June 10)
reviewed the Activity Guide for Project Underground. The PU-BOD made lots of
corrections and revisions, but we may have a printed Activity Guide by
Convention. I have volunteered to write a chapter on cave conservation for the
proposed American Geological Institute (
Pictograph Cave (OR)-The initial comment
period for the
Educational Materials-I plan to continue
to work closely with Project Underground and the
Speleothem Sales-I have been contacted by
Dale Pate, Cave Specialist at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, seeking
Government Affairs Division-Janet Thorne
has recently submitted her resignation from this position, after many years of
excellent service. Jagnow will be seeking a replacement. She is also the
1) Conservation Research Grants: For FY 1995, NO Conservation Research Grants were applied for or awarded. $500 remains unspent (again). Interest in these relatively nominal awards has been essentially nil for the past seven or more years.
2) Conservation Grants: For FY 1995, four Conservation Grants were applied for and three were awarded. Of $2000 available, $100 went unclaimed.
1) Solicit Board action to reconsider
use/allocation of Conservation Research Grant funds. Suggested motion: Move to
eliminate the current Conservation Research Grant Program and reallocate its
funds ($500/year) to augment the existing funding provided to the
2) Develop a simplified Conservation Grants Application form by Convention time ... essentially one which simply asks "who are you, how much do you need, what will it be used for, what is the overall cost of your project, and how will it promote or further cave conservation."
3) More rigorously advertise and promote
the availability and uses of the Conservation Grants Program by ads and
1) Apparently, there are relatively few
broad-application projects being undertaken by
2) The Grant Application now in use is cumbersome, overlong, and far too intimidating for the intended purpose. It is, in fact, based on the rigorous format used at many academic institutions for applying for major institutional/federal grants.
Essentially, none. The Central Clearing House has closed, although nominations are still being accepted at the local Federal management office level. No inquiries on the nomination process or procedures have been received in a year, from any source.
Virtually no action on Significant Cave Nominations transpired since the summer of 1995 ... a combination of no real interest on the part of the caving community and essentially no financial support or institutional emphasis on the part of the various Federal agencies (most of which are literally struggling for survival in the current political arena).
Drop out of the Significant Caves Nomination battle for the interim, but remain a resource. At this stage, there seems to be little point in pressing for more nominations until we resolve the issue of what to do with nominated caves. Effort and emphasis would seem to be best focused on building professional and volunteer associations with public and private cave owners to achieve good management and help accomplish and sustain conservation-minded work.
Aside from a few individuals and a couple
of I/O's, the
The Preservation and Restoration Workshop
is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon
A Conservation Grant has been awarded the Division of Resource Preservation for the development of a traveling display addressing restoration techniques. The display will illustrate proven methods for speleothem restoration, formation repair, and cave trail management. The content will be aimed at a general audience of people interested in caves and will provide educational material on conservation, ethics, and cave restoration techniques. The exhibit is being designed to allow photos to be easily updated as new techniques are developed.
This is the year of restoration in
The workshop mentioned above should provide a good forum for continuing the process of gathering information toward compiling educational information on cave restoration and repair. It is timely to publish a book of proven techniques. We would be willing to explore the potentials of this project.
Many requests for proven techniques for
graffiti removal are coming in. In answering these questions, we are compiling
a paper on cave safe graffiti removal. It should be available at the 1996
We are continuing to plant seeds toward
the creation of a cave conservation, safety, and ethics video to be used by
cave managers as a companion piece to the
Janet Thorne has resigned as of
I guess it's pretty obvious that I'm simply not getting anything done as Director of the Government Affairs Division, and this definitely is a disservice to the Society. My priorities and interests have changed, and despite the best of intentions I'm just not carrying through on needed contacts.
As reported earlier, Jagnow has just
recently appointed Dianna Polidori as Conservation Task Force Coordinator.
Dianna lives in
Sloan's Valley CTF-Jagnow worked with Dr. Hillary Lambert Hopper to establish tax-exempt status for this CTF which should assist in obtaining a research grant from The Turner Foundation.
Jagnow will turn over CTF files to Dianna Polidori at the Salida Convention. Dianna plans to be on e-mail soon, and will take over as CTF Coordinator at the Salida Convention.
Communications with the CTFs is sometimes very spotty. The appointment of Dianna Polidori should help solve this problem.
Plans were to put out two issues of the Cave Conservationist in the first half of the year, and to keep the Section Web page updated with current news and action items.
Progress was made, but not quite as
planned. Because Jay Jorden has sent me very little material for the Cave
Conservationists (He is the Editor, I am the Publisher) I finally sent him and
Evelyn (our newsletter scrounger) a deadline notice. I now have Issue #1 ready
to go to the printers (and it should be in the mail this week [
I have two problems. One is getting people to send me information (that includes Dave Jagnow, Jay Jorden, and everyone else except Evelyn Bradshaw, who always sends me lots whenever I need it. The other problem is getting the time to get it posted and up. That situation will get worse through the summer, but should improve in the fall and improve greatly by the end of the year. So I'm not too worried about that.
Under the reorganization plan passed at
Submitted by Bill Elliot. Batline is an Internet Mailing List focusing on Bat Research issues.
Recent discussion here on batline about
Mexican free-tailed bats alerted me that some of you would be interested in
recent work on bat caves in
Besides mapping and studying some of the
Dr. Gary McCracken,
Here is an excerpt from my article:
William R. Elliott, Ph.D. Research Fellow, Texas Memorial Museum The University of Texas at Austin 12102 Grimsley Drive Austin, Texas 78759-3120. Originally published in Oklahoma Underground.
I visited and compared bat caves in
This report is the result of a study
supported by The Nature Conservancy , Oklahoma Chapter. The purpose was to
study up to five bat caves in western
The ecological importance of Mexican
free-tailed bat caves in western
The above statements are not intended to
belittle the urgent need for studies and conservation of other regional caves
that provide roosts for other bat species, such as Myotis velifer, Eptesicus
fuscus, Pipistrellus subflavus, Plecotus townsendii, Plecotus rafinesqueii, and
Antrozous pallidus. However, these bats are capable of utilizing smaller,
colder caves, which are much more numerous in the gypsum karst of northwestern
Gypsum karst of Permian age is found in
[Methods, Cave descriptions, tables and results omitted...]
I have summarized the important ecological features of the major bat caves of western Oklahoma in Table 9. This tabulation brings out several critical features to consider but also points to data gaps that need to be filled. Sensitive information about each site has been removed from Table 9.
It is frustrating not to be able to precisely estimate population sizes of freetails but this is not of critical importance because freetail populations shift dramatically during migration and birthing. The essential fact is that there are three major maternity roosts of similar size and two lesser maternity roosts. All are of strategic ecological importance, as detailed below.
It is good to consider the biodiversity of each cave and for this reason Jester scores high despite its lack of freetails. However, this does not take into account the primary goal of this effort, which was to select freetail caves for preservation. The D.C. Jester Cave System is truly outstanding and ideally should be protected for numerous other values, as should Selman Cave System. Both caves are important hibernacula for Myotis velifer and harbor other bats as well.
In my view vulnerability to human disturbance ought to be the most important consideration in deciding among the five freetail caves under consideration. Rural youths sometimes enjoy dousing bats with gasoline and setting them on fire- such an incident occurred at Walkup Cave, Texas, less than 50 miles from Reed Bat Cave (Elliott, 1992). The incident drove a large colony of Myotis velifer from the cave. My final recommendations to The Nature Conservancy included information about each cave's specific vulnerability to vandalism.
All Mexican free-tailed bat caves in Oklahoma should be protected at some level. Most have been protected by private ownership and remoteness, but such protection can be defeated by absentee ownership and vandals. Private ownership assisted by cooperative conservation programs can still adequately protect these caves in most cases, given adequate resources.
The freetail caves of western Oklahoma are strategically important to the survival of Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana for the following reasons:
1. The western Oklahoma bat caves form an isolated cluster far removed from other maternity caves in Texas and New Mexico. No other such caves occur in immediately adjacent parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas (Fig. 1)
2. The Oklahoma caves are an important link in maintaining the northern part of the species' range in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, both as maternity caves and as stop-offs during migration. A gap of 290 miles exists between Reed Bat Cave and the most northern maternity cave in Texas. There is another gap of 110 miles between Reed and the northern cluster of freetail caves (Connor's, Vickery, Selman, and Merrihew). One could argue that these gaps make Reed Bat Cave the most critical cave in the area, regardless of its exact population size. However, the northern cluster must also be critical in providing bat roosts for the northernmost extent of the range.
3. The Oklahoma caves are removed from urban areas and farmlands having extremely heavy pesticide usage, thus insuring that the bat populations will be vigorous for a long time.
4. Other important freetail caves in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico have suffered losses caused by pesticides, vandalism, water recharge projects and overzealous guano mining. In some areas of Mexico heavy use of pesticides continues, including DDT, and threatens this species in its winter range. The remaining freetail bat caves in the United States are now more important than ever to the survival of this migratory species. The loss of natural roosts may now be evident in the recent tendency of this species to roost in abandoned tunnels, mines, and bridges.
I am grateful to The Nature Conservancy for its support of this study and to Sue Bozeman and Oklahoma Underground for publishing this report. My thanks to Nora Jones and Melissa Nagel, who were instrumental in assisting me in the field, providing literature, and for stimulating discussions on Oklahoma caves. Many thanks also to the following for field assistance or important information: Captain Wesley Webb, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation; John and Sue Bozeman, Central Oklahoma Grotto; Dr. Jack D. Tyler, Cameron University, Lawton; Dr. Vernon Powders and Dr. Paul Nighswonger, Northwest Oklahoma State University, Alva; Wayne White and Janet Williams, Kansas Speleological Society.
Anonymous. 1968a. Nescatunga. Okla. Underground. 1:4-6. Anonymous. 1968b. Bat caves of Northwest Oklahoma. Okla. Underground. 1:12-15. Baker and Bozeman. 1986. Connor's Bat Cave. Okla. Underground. 19: Bozeman, S., K.S. Johnson, B. Jagnow, B. Baker, G. Kowalski, J. Looney, P. Ziegler, A. Dodds, S. Martinez, and P. Riley. 1987. The D.C. Jester Cave System. Okla. Underground. 14:1-56. Black, J.H. 1974. Bat band reports. Okla. Underground. 6:45-46. Davis, R.B., C.F. Herreid II, and H.L. Short. 1962. Mexican free-tailed bats in Texas. Ecol. Monogr. 32:311-346. Elliott, W.R. 1992. Cave fauna conservation in Texas. pp. 323-337 in: Foster, D.L. (ed.), Proceedings of the National Cave Management Symposium, 1991. American Cave Consv. Assoc., Horse Cave, Kentucky. 405 pp. Elliott, W.R. 1993. Bibliography of Oklahoma biospeleology. Unpubl. report to The Nature Conservancy, Oklahoma Chap. 37 pp. Herreid, C.F, II. 1963. Temperature regulation of Mexican free-tailed bats in cave habitats. J. Mamm. 44:560-573. Herreid, C.F, II. 1967. Temperature regulation, temperature preference and tolerance, and metabolism of young and adult free-tailed bats. Phys. zool. 40:1-22. Looney, V. 1974. Birds and bats at Vickery. Okla. Underground. 7:14-16. Looney, J. 1985. Alabaster Caverns State Park caves. Okla. Underground. 12:2-11. Reddell, J.R. 1966. A checklist of the cave fauna of Texas. II. Insecta. Texas J. Sci. 18:25-56. Reddell, J.R. 1970. A checklist of the cave fauna of Texas. V. Additional records of Insecta. Texas J. Sci. 22:47-65. Reddell, J.R., and W.H. Russell. 1963. The caves of Northwest Texas. Texas Speleol. Survey, Austin. 56 pp. Svoboda, P.L, J.R. Choate, and R.K. Chesser. 1985. Genetic relationships among southwestern populations of the Brazilian free-tailed bat. J. Mamm. 66:444-450. Twente, J.W., Jr. 1955a. Aspects of a population study of cavern-dwelling bats. J. Mamm. 36:379-390. Twente, J.W., Jr. 1955b. Some aspects of habitat selection and other behavior of cavern-dwelling bats. Ecology. 36:706-732. Twente, J.W., Jr. 1956. Ecological observations on a colony of Tadarida mexicana. J. Mamm. 37:42-47. Villa R., B., and E.L. Cockrum. 1962. Migration in the guano bat Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana (Saussure). J. Mamm. 43:43-64. Wahl, R. 1989. Important Mexican free-tailed bat colonies in Texas. pp. 47-50 in Jorden, J.R., and R.K. Obele (eds.), Proc. 1989 Nat. Cave Mgmt. Symp., New Braunfels. Texas Cave Mgmt. Assoc. & Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. 157 pp.
William R. Elliott, Ph.D. 12102 Grimsley
Drive Austin, Texas 78759-3120 USA home/office phone
Submitted to the Cavers Digest by John Gookin
I recently posted a request for help installing an alarm on a cave gate in Boulder Choke Cave in Sinks Canyon State Park, WY. First, I'll describe the alarm we are installing. Then I'll explain how the vandals already got caught and why they are not being prosecuted, yet.
The Park has an existing alarm on its visitor center, with an unused channel. We are attaching a commercially made 900 MHz radio relay to the existing alarm, which can signal the County Sheriff's Office. We are triggering the relay with a simple vibration sensor attached to the cave gate. The sensor will have a wire (comm wire) running out to the radio transmitter, but if anything gets cut, the alarm goes off. We will have a key-lock in the wall of the visitor center so authorized cavers can turn the cave alarm off without DC'ing the main building alarm. The system will cost us $260, which our grotto will split with the State Park.
We found a credit card receipt amongst the broken bottles and trash left in the cave. The County started investigating the 20 year old son of the person named on the credit card receipt, then 2 nights later he and his friends were in a car wreck at 2:40 a.m.. They were all drunk. One died in the crash. Some of them fled the scene, but were caught. They are still each saying that they weren't the driver. The County investigator says they'll all get charged with all sorts of things, and that the cave is the least of their worries right now. He expects that they'll each serve some time because of the 'vehicular homicide' involved.
In the past, our local grotto kept the cave key and the park just sent people to us. In fact, the local grotto built and installed the gate. The State Park had to involve their state office in the vandalism investigation. The state office has now insisted on a 'more formal' access policy, where we have to sign waivers, fill out trip reports, and do stuff like that. It will make it especially harder for cavers to come from elsewhere and get into the cave just because they need to fill out the form in advance to get the key. Of course this has nothing to do with vandalism, except that the vandalism incident created a higher profile which resulted in tighter controls.
Thanks to the 20-30 people who sent me burglar alarm designs. We are using many of the details people sent me. The next time, we just may catch the vandals while they're still in there playing Dead Poet Society.
John Gookin, Lander, Wyoming, USA
The following article was scanned from the Austin American-Statesman:
Austin American-Statesman, Tues.,
A CRIME AGAINST NATURE 'We won't ever be able to fix it back to like it was.... So senseless.'
[photo by] Justin Shaw/For AA-S. Jay Kane, a preserve manager with the Austin Parks and Recreation( Department, examines vandalized stalactite in the 'jail room' of the Maple Run cave in South Austin. Perpetrators broke many of the columns, which had formed in the room over thousands of years.
Vandals damage South Austin caves By Scott W. Wright American-Statesman Staff
It took nature thousands of years to create the delicate rock formations and copper-colored mineral curtains that grace a unique grotto deep beneath the Karst Preserve in South Austin. It took vandals only a few minutes to permanently scar the natural wonder by toppling and smashing stalactites, stalagmites and other speleothems - rock formations -in one cave and marring others with graffiti. "What happened here is reprehensible," Mark Sanders of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department's natural resources division said Monday as he surveyed the damage in one of the caves. "Some of the damage can never be repaired," he said. "These formations will continue to grow, but what was destroyed was several thousand years' worth of work that was very fragile." At least 50 formations were damaged or destroyed. Parks officials say the vandalism at Maple Run and Goat caves on the 8-acre Karst Preserve is believed to have occurred the last week of June or first week of July The Karst Preserve caves, near Brodie.
See Vandals, B5
[photo by] Chris Thibodaux. Two students peer through columns in the 'jail room' during a University of Texas informal class taught before the vandalism.
Lane and MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1), are part of the unique geology of Central Texas. Four caves lie in the preserve, but only Maple Run and Goat caves are accessible to human visitors-and then just barely. Maple Run, 75 feet underground, can be reached only by inching 350 feet through a winding, narrow tunnel on one's stomach. The cave, which is 1100 feet long, has several spacious rooms linked by tunnels sometimes only a foot high. The shallower Goat Cave can be accessed by climbing down a ladder, but it already has access limited to guided tours. The stalactites and stalagmites that protrude from the caves, believed to be at least 1 million years old, formed as rainwater that filters through the soil above the caves picked up minerals. The rainwater eventually empties into the Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer. Austin Parks officials, who say they now will be forced to place a locked gate over Maple Run Cave to limit public access, have put out a plea to Austin residents to help -them solve the crime against nature.
Austin Nature Preserve officials and Park Police say they have few leads in the case, but the National Speleological Society and others are offering up to a $1,000 reward for more information about the incident. Under the Texas Cavern Protection Act, it is a Class A misdemeanor to damage cave features. Those who commit repeated violations can be charged with a third-degree felony under the act.
Parks officials also say the vandals carted off pieces of the broken rock formations, possibly as trophies. But the formations, removed from their natural environment, will crumble into nothing within a year, Sanders said.
[Map of Goat Cave]- The relatively shallow Goat Cave, one of two in the area that are accessible to humans, suffered damage to many stalactites and stalagmites.
Officials hope to recover some of those stolen pieces in an effort to repair the damage.
Sanders said some of the shattered formations can be pieced back together with glue-like sub-stances and metal rods. Nature would eventually meld the broken pieces back together. But, he said, the cave will never be the same. "We won't ever be able to fix it back to like it was," Sanders said. "It's such a shame. So senseless. Why would somebody want to ruin all this beauty for others?"
Anyone with information about the cave
vandalism is asked to contact the Austin Nature Preserve at
Submitted by Bill Elliot
A letter to the editor in response:
Editor Austin American-Statesman P.O. Box 670 Austin, TX 78767
To the Editor:
I don't know why the City of Austin should act surprised at the vandalism in Maple Run Cave (see "Vandals damage South Austin caves," July 30, p. B1). The City has owned the cave for years, and it still has not put a locked gate on it to prevent this type of destruction. Vandalism and littering also is occurring at several other caves owned by the City.
The City is supposed to be a partner with Travis County in protecting caves under the BCCP. The permit issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service requires the protection of 35 Travis County caves containing endangered species plus 27 other caves that have rare species. This expanded protection was part of the BCCP's "no surprises" policy, which would preserve rare species that could someday land on the endangered list. But surprise! The City is actually promoting recreational caving in some its most sensitive caves, like Airman's, District Park, Goat, and Maple Run. The City's Parks and Recreation Department recently published a booklet, "A Guide to Austin's Most Visited Caves," with locator maps! Those caves are part of the BCCP, and too much traffic in them will trample the tiny creatures that are supposed to be protected. Why is the City of Austin overusing these sensitive caves when there are over 300 caves in Travis County? Caves are very fragile environments. In my opinion the City of Austin needs to reset some priorities here. The different departments responsible for the caves are not working together to uphold the BCCP permit.
William R. Elliott, Ph.D. Editor, Texas Speleological Survey
copies: Mayor Bruce Todd, City of Austin Joe Lessard, Asst. City Manager Valerie Bristol, Travis County, BCCP Coordinating Committee Chair Steve Helfert, Field Office Supervisor, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
submitted by P.J. Diblasi and others
Many of you might be interested in this newspaper report. See how many historical and technical errors you can spot.
The Courier-Journal, Friday 1, March 1996 Page A-6 (Briefs / From Page 1)
By Cynthia Eagles-Staff Writer
MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK, Ky. - The damage to the cave that was once the resting place of Floyd Collins is extensive: entire sheets of gypsum torn away, powdery piles of crushed gypsum crystals on the cave floor, and delicate, lacy helictites snapped clean from their roots and missing. And on an outer wall, in bold white paint sprayed in a corner: ''Leon R.'' and ''Tony H.''
Yesterday, Wendell Leon Reynolds, 18 of Mumfordsville, Anthony Wayne Hawkins, 33, of Radcliff, and Anthony Dale Stinson, 23, also of Mumfordsville, pleaded guilty to federal charges that they destroyed Crystal cave at Mammoth Cave National park when they stole cave formations from it last spring. Reynolds and Hawkins now face maximum sentences of 35 years in federal prison, plus fines of $750,000 each. In addition, Stinson admitted that he stole two clay masks of Collins and his brother, Homer.
He could be sentenced to a total of 45 years in prison, plus a $1 million fine. Sentencing was set for May 22. The three admitted to U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell that from April to June they made repeated trips 'in the dead of night,' as the indictments charge, tunneled under an entrance gate and hauled out 800 pounds of 'cave rocks' in duffel bags. Baseball bats were their tools of choice. 'Some of them we broke, and some of them were loose,' Reynolds told the judge yesterday. 'We put the rocks inside duffel bags and carried them out,' Stinson said in court.
In stealing formations, the vandals dragged the heavy rocks up and down steep cave paths, the got out by squeezing through a muddy hole no more than a foot wide and 2 feet deep. Then they lugged the heavy bags another mile to their vehicles.
The cave 'is trashed for eternity,' said Randy Ream, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case. The National Park Service estimated they damaged roughly a mile in one passage, and ruined a quarter mile of another. A tour for reporters yesterday revealed that the vandals pulled away entire sheets of gypsum along some passages, and took whole sections of the lacy formations known as helictites. Related to stalactites and stalagmites, the familiar cave 'icicles,' helictites grow in curlicues and defy gravity and logic. Damage to the cave was put at $270,000 by the government. Ream said the trio peddled their cache to rock and souvenir dealers that line the entrance roads to the park. For all their efforts, they got less than $1,000 or less, Ream said.
Federal investigators confiscated the booty but did not arrest the shop owners. Ream said he couldn't prove that the shop owners knew the formations came from the park. The vandalism enraged the executive director of the American Cave Conservation Association, David Foster, who criticized the National park for being slow to install a better gate at the cave, and the Mammoth Cave area rock shops, for ignoring a 1988 state law that bars the sale of 'speleotherms' [sic] as the cave formations are formally known. However, Foster acknowledged that it's only a misdemeanor to sell the rocks, and has been a low priority to law enforcement. His criticism of the park service's protection of Crystal Cave was echoed by Crystal Collins, whose husband is a great-nephew to Floyd Collins. Vickie Carson, a National Park Service spokeswoman, responded that the Park Service has a new cave gate-building program under way. She also said the park service runs surveillance on cave entrances, and also relies on tips from the neighbors. In 1925, while trying to find a new entrance closer to the main highway, Floyd Collins died in what is now known as Sand Cave. Crystal cave became known as Floyd Collins' Crystal cave, and was a place tourists could see Collins' body in its casket. The cave closed in 1961 when the park service bought it, and Collins body was re-interred in another cemetery in the park.
I have just spoken with Vickie Carson of the Public Affairs Office at Mammoth Cave National Park. Although the three men arrested for vandalizing Crystal Cave have pled guilty it was "guilty without agreement of the value of the vandalism." MCNP estimates, if a value must be assigned to this irreplaceable damage to the resource, it would be $270,000. However, attorneys for the defendants have hired their own geologist to review this issue.
Sentencing is scheduled for
Vickie Carson, the Public Affairs Officer for MCNP, was present in court as an observer during the entering of the guilty pleas. She informed me today that the three men arrested were allowed to, in their own words, describe their crime to the court. They stated that they, "just took some rocks," from the cave. No mention was made of the huge chunks of gypsum crust beaten off of the walls or the helictites shattered. Vickie said that the manner in which the Judge accepted their comments left her with a very cold feeling about how he was going to decide in this sentencing matter. In other words, he may not realize the extent of the damage, the value of the resource, and that if these criminals get off with only a slap on the hand it is sending a very clear message to the community about how the courts view this type of activity, i.e., perpetrators will be able to get away with this sort of behavior in the future with little or no fear of prosecution. I am usually not one to actively speak out but enough is enough - the cave must be protected - and we are in a position to do something in that direction.
There is still a chance to have an affect on this case through the education of the Judge, and in so doing, possibly help protect our underground resources from similar destruction. If you are so inclined, letters, materials, photographs, etc. can be sent to the judge at the following address:
Judge Thomas B. Russell c/o U.S. Probation Office Post Office Box 3470 Bowling Green, Kentucky 42102-3470
Cave Safely and Softly,
A letter to the Judge:
The Honorable Thomas B. Russell U.S.
PO Box 3470
Bowling Green, KY, 42102-3470
Dear Judge Russell,
I have been informed of the trial and sentencing of the three men accused of illegally entering Floyd Collins Crystal Cave (referred to subsequently as Crystal Cave) in Mammoth Cave National Park, KY, and of vandalizing the cave is to take place on May 22 of this year and that you are the presiding judge. I understand that they allowed that they had entered the cave and, in their own words, "just took some rocks." I submit to you that this may well be a gross understatement of what they actually did to the apparently large numbers of cave formations (termed "speleothems").
Although I have not visited the cave to see the damage, I have received reports from knowledgeable parties who have and they have stated that there has been extensive damage to the cave's delicate calcite "helictites" and fragile gypsum wall crusts. I understand that the National Park Service has estimated that nearly $270,000 of damage has been done to the cave.
I have been a "cave crawler" for nearly 40 years. I also have been an earth scientist, working both as a private consultant and for the Federal Government, for nearly as long. As such, I would like to make a few comments about the ramifications of what these three men did in Crystal Cave. These speleothems take up to tens to hundreds of thousands of years to form. The surface climatic conditions controlling the ground water, and thus the cave environment, has dramatically changed over the past thousands of years, thus altering the growth of these speleothems. In many caves, speleothems no longer grow and are thus irreplaceable. From observations during my own past visits to Crystal Cave and from discussions with other earth scientists, I understand the conditions in Crystal Cave have changed and that many of the speleothems are no longer actively growing. It follows, then, that these delicate gypsum wall crust and calcite helictites are no longer able to renew themselves if broken. It appears to me that, in this situation, what has taken place is the destruction of an irreplaceable resource. This resource was specifically set aside for the enjoyment of the public and preservation of the resource itself. Without belaboring the point, I suggest that these acts of vandalism be viewed by the court as much more serious than "just taking a few rocks."
When you make your judgment of these men, I would respectfully suggest that you take into consideration the following concept. Crystal Cave is but one of many caves in the nation, abet one specifically set aside for preservation as a part of a National Park. Accordingly, the vandalism of some number of delicate speleothems from Crystal Cave may be insignificant on a national scale. However, by imposing a minimal sentence on these three men, a message is sent to those who might consider such actions in the future that implies that is allowable to forcibly enter a National Park unit and destroy features that are irreplaceable. I submit that this is the wrong message to convey about any site with irreplaceable features, be it a national heritage or private site.
I most respectfully ask that you consider giving of these three men considerably more than a "slap on the hand" sentence. The acts they have perpetrated deserve a strong rebuke and should be used as an example of what sort of discipline may be expected when such future acts are considered by anyone so inclined to show such callous disregard for our national treasures.
I thank you for your patience in allowing me to state my feeling on this case.
Bruce W. Rogers
(earth scientist on a good day)
From the Louisville Newspaper:
For those of you who took time to write letters to the Judge in the Floyd Collins Crystal Cave vandalism case, you might be happy to know that they may have had a positive influence on the Judge's sentencing decision.
Many people with Mammoth Cave National Park and the US Attorneys Office worked long and hard to investigate and prosecute this case and they deserve the credit for pushing this cave vandalism case through to the end. I am sure your backing, provided by all of the letters you sent to the judge, added an important point of view for the judge to consider, i.e., this was a major crime and the citizens of the United States will not tolerate the type of mean-spirited destruction of resources within our National Parks that these crimes represented.
The sentences handed down by the judge were:
Perpetrator 1: 33 months in federal prison followed by 3 years probation and 550 hours of community service work.
Perpetrators 2 & 3: 21 months each in federal prison followed by 3 years probation and 500 hours of community service work.
The sentences were much harsher than requested by the US Attorneys Office. In other words, the judge threw the proverbial book at them. His decision now stands as a legal precedent which will send a clear message to other courts across the country about how the federal court views this type of criminal activity.
Thank you for your show of support in this case!
(Reference #7 in 5293)
The above reference is part of a campaign to get the judge sitting on this trial to realize the enormity of the crime of speleothem removal etc. and not just issue a slap on the wrist.
I have no quarrel with the need for making the punishment fit the crime but have comments:
1. Is throwing the vandal into prison with car thieves and bank robbers and wife beaters etc. going to do anything but give him an advanced course in how to get away with crime better next time. After all, even the death penalty is arguably not a successful deterrent to violent crime.
2. "Go thou and sin no more," just pick up a few tossed soda bottles in an Adopt-a-Highway clean up, or sweeping out the mayor's office for ten weeks on Saturdays is not a punishment that fits the crime.
3. What about a Community Service Correctional Camp system, where we really come up with some tough jobs like removing graffiti and excruciating crawls in mud and water to get the clean up locations, but at the same time meeting cavers who really dig this kind of pain?. "I knew it was a good trip because I ached so bad," wrote Lou Simpson. Six months of this pain might do the caves some good and might do more to change the vandal's attitudes than ten years in state or federal prison.
4. There is a real PR opportunity here
also to educate the bench. Isn't there a professional journal for judges and
others of that ilk, where a good article somewhat along the lines of the letter
references above might help judges faced with vandalism cases to understand
better the seriousness of the crime. If someone with impressive credentials as
a geologist or speleologist could author the article or allow some of his/her
writings to be quoted, it would help. I have communicated with the
Robert Jones <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes: "I do not think "jail time" is an appropriate punishment for this type of crime. "
I think it's important to look at the
scope of vandalism in National Parks and on other National Land and to realize
that this sentence sets standard for all such cases. It's not just about a few
cave formations. It's about the raping of National Lands for personal profit.
Of course, some may use the same terms to describe legal use of
Yes, it's a hard sentence for a few cave formations.
diane h peapus
I have a few things to say to the person who said jail was not appropriate for cave vandalism and that they should force to do community service inside caves cleaning up trash graffiti etc.
I am glad this idiot does not run our criminal justice system, or child molesters would be forced to do community service work working with young children. I think this would teach them the error of their ways. Armed robbers would be forced to work for armored car companies, so they know what it feels like to carry a gun and a large amount of cash in a non-threatening way.
"Seamus A. Decker" <email@example.com>
I have a few things to say to the person who said jail was not appropriate for?robbers would be forced to work for armored car companies, so they know what it feels like to carry a gun and a large amount of cash in a non-threatening way.
I love being flamed!!!!! However, I want
to set the record straight Mr. Holzapfel. I was just "voicing my
opinion" on an "alternate punishment" for "vandalism".
I personally think that the vandals should be held responsible for the clean
up, including "THE
I think it was important for this case to set a precedent which might help to deter future cave vandals. As much as I disagree with the U.S. penal system, I think that of all the possible outcomes, stiff prison sentences set the most powerful precedent, and have the highest probability of deterring future cave vandals, particularly if the outcome of the case is widely publicized (hint, hint).
While cave vandalism seems like a victimless crime, there are actually millions of victims, i.e., those who are forever denied the opportunity to experience the cave in something like a pristine condition. Another issue to consider when judging the punishment is that this cave is Federal property, i.e., it (technically speaking) has a higher degree of sanctity than other caves. To use an analogy, these vandals did not impudently break-into, vandalize, and burglarize a small village church, they impudently broke-into, vandalized, and burgled the Sistine Chapel. Thus, it was doubly important that this case set a strong precedent to deter cave vandals; if Federally protected caves are not safe, then which caves are?
I should also note that the vandals in this case fully premeditated their actions with complete knowledge that the cave was protected by Federal Law, went to great lengths to mine under a gate, and visited the cave repeatedly to remove speleothems to be sold for profit to local rock shops. These were not casual vandals, but hardworking vandals with complete disregard for the law, and for the environment. From the perspective of a speleophile, these vandals got the punishment that they deserved.
I cannot disagree with those who argue that imprisonment in the U.S. is fraught with problems, inefficiencies, cruelty, and achieves anything but "rehabilitation" in most cases. However, as one person has mentioned, such debates seem more appropriate on alt.criminal.justice, than on the International Caver's Forum. Let us only hope that this is the last time a Judge is forced to mete out such a sentence.
Seamus Decker Department of Anthropology
The dialogue ongoing in the Cavers Digest concerning whether caving is a sport parallels one that was featured in the D. C. Speleograph in 1974, which Evelyn Bradshaw then edited. Gil Ediger of Texas was then stationed in northern Virginia and wrote a piece, "Wrapping Up the Debate," which sums it up fairly well:
Much has been said using the somewhat vague term "sport caver." No one seems to have attempted to define the words yet. In some people's minds it tends to refer to a caver who gets together with some friends on a weekend, travels many miles to caving country, lights his carbide, and tours a cave, exiting some hours later with nothing to show for it but mud, scrapes, and bruises, and/or spent carbide. (I mention spent carbide because nothing has shown me that this caver is any more or less prone to conservation than any other caver.) But one thing that the caver has brought out with him is not outwardly apparent. It's the joy and satisfaction that we all felt as novices, that we feel today, and that we'll feel in the future. It's the joy and satisfaction that we all felt as novices, that we feel today, and that we'll feel in the future. It's the joy of being in an elite group, of going places, doing things, and seeing sights that few (very damn few) of the world's 3-1/2 billion people ever dreamed of. The personal satisfaction of knowing that your physical effort, your abilities, your own thought processes got you in, filled you (thrilled you?) with the satisfaction that comes from just being there, from seeing, experiencing, exercising, hurting, straining, laughing, talking, communing with nature (or God if you're into that sort of thing), or any of the other myriad of things that are so personal to each of us. And the thrill of getting out again (safely, if you're into heroics) and feeling pleased with yourself, though tired, muddy, cold, battered, and bruised, and whatever else we go through. All these things he's brought out with him.
Where in the book of "Human Experience," under the heading of "Caver Satisfaction," does it say that one must also have brought out survey notes or photographs or creepy-crawly things incarcerated in jars of alcohol, all in the name of SCIENCE? Where does it say under the subtopic "Net Positive Contributions to Speleology" that doing any of this crap was required? Where, I ask, are we required to do anything whatsoever except have fun and not disallow others to?
For there lies our destiny in caving-having fun! When all is said and done, it is the reason, the only reason, the driving force that keeps taking us back below ground. If one person's idea of fun includes mapping, then that's his bag! More power to him. We may even learn to tolerate his unsightly permanent survey stations because we realize that they're important to his pursuit of happiness even though they may reek of vandalism. We only ask in return that he use discretion in number and location when placing them. If a person's bag is photography, I'm all for him. I'll even pick up and carry out of the cave the flash bulb that he accidentally lost. I only ask that in return for sharing the cave with me he make a conscientious effort not to leave photographic trash lying around on purpose or out of laziness. I can tolerate accidents, because I'm dealing with humans, and the cream of the crop at that: cavers! And what of the guy who collects bugs? Is he really making a "net positive contribution" or is he vandalizing? Who am I say? He says he's contributing to science. Right now I tend to agree, but sufficient evidence to the contrary could make me change my mind. But if bugs are his bag-fine! We'll even accept his closing down our favorite cave for a year or two to conduct experiments. All we ask is that in his collecting he do it in a logical, scientifically accepted manner, and that in closing a cave he make the caving world (all of it) aware of his plans to close it well ahead of time and that he give some semblance of justification (even though I may not agree with it), and that he publish some sort of timetable concerning the reopening of the cave.
My definition of a "sport caver" is one who is caving for sport-for fun if you will. Be that fun of his mapping, picture taking, bug collecting, walking (crawling) through a cave or whatever, so long as it's done in a manner that is compatible with and realizes the needs and desires of other cavers (humans) and does as little damage as possible to the cave. We must realize, but not be intolerant of the fact that some damage will necessarily be done by any traffic at all, be it lookers, mappers, or picture takers-all sport cavers.
So, in the final analysis, we see that there is a place in caving for the sport caver-for we are all sport cavers. We see that there is a place in caving for the spelunker and the speleologist, not only to coexist, but to be one in the same person. I can see and say this without reservation, for I am a "sport caver." I enjoy caving for caving's sake. Just to see the cave. If it never gets mapped, that's fine. But if I feel the need (or urge) to map, I certainly will. I have many thousands of feet of cave on paper with my name in the notes. I take pictures and I collect bugs. I erase "out' arrows and I carry out trash. I deplore vandalism! . . . So let's get off this "net positive contribution" kick and back into some "serious" caving as "sport cavers" doing our "own thing" within the realm of human concern for our fellow cavers and what "sport caving" means to them, bearing in mind all the while the fragility of the caves.
Included below are a letter and its
attachment from the Bureau of Land Management recently mailed to local [Oregon
& Washington] cavers. Of the six caves in central Oregon used by sport
climbers as climbing gyms, only one is on
Bureau of Land Management
Prineville District Office PO Box 550 Prineville, Oregon 97754
In Reply Refer to OR-0568380
The Prineville District of the Bureau of
Land Management is preparing a Management Plan and Environmental Assessment for
Pictograph Cave, Deschutes County, Oregon. Pictograph Cave was listed as a
Significant Cave in April, 1995 under the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act
of 1988 due to its significant biological, cultural, geologic, and recreational
resources. In 1995, Interim Cave Management Policy for
Many comments and letters have been received regarding the issues at Pictograph Cave. However, we would like to ensure that all interested parties have an adequate opportunity to comment. Please refer to the Summary of the Issues Identified, as attached. Any additional comments should be submitted in writing by April 15. Following this period, proposed alternatives will be presented at a scheduled public meeting; opportunity for comment and discussion of the proposed alternatives will be provided before publication of the Draft Management Plan.
The confidentiality of cave location information throughout the planning process has been an important concern. All persons involved in the planning process should already be familiar with the location of Pictograph Cave. No information regarding the location of the cave will be revealed in any documents or meetings pertaining to the management plan, as cave locations are exempt form the Freedom of Information Act under the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988. Please remember the need for confidentiality in your own discussions of the issues surrounding Pictograph Cave.
Any question or comments can be directed
to Sarah Nichols, Project Coordinator at
Sincerely, James G Kenna, Deschutes Area
1. Biota Pictograph Cave is a hibernaculum for the Western Big Eared bat (Plecotus townsendii), a Species of Concern which is extremely sensitive to human disturbance, noise, and vibration. A seasonal closure implemented in October of 1995 protects the cave and sinkhole areas from October 15 to May 1 annually; exemptions to the closure are made for authorized administrative personnel for resource monitoring purposes. The cave is also a day roost, as bat presence has been documented during the summer months. Night roosting activity occurs at both entrances by tow distinct size classes of bats, indicating the possibility of a maternity colony or the presence of a second species (most likely Myotis spp). Completion of further biological study in the summer of 1996 may present new information regarding closure needs.
The micro-climate of the sink and entrance areas support a unique assemblage of plant species, in contrast to surrounding surface vegetation. The micro-climate provided in the cave's interior supports unique and sensitive biological resources. Impacts to these resources are of concern; however, a complete Biological Survey, including invertebrate biology, has not been completed. Impacts to surface vegetation from foot travel are also of concern.
2 Cultural Resources Pictograph Cave site (Smithsonian Number 35DS67) consists of seven panels of prehistoric rock art with an associated obsidian, biface thinning flake, lithic scatter. Three cultural resource site forms have been completed for this site over the last twenty years. Additionally, a National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form, 1979, was completed, but not submitted to the National Park Service for concurrence.
Concern has been expressed regarding protection of these cultural resources and the potential for damage resulting from increased recreational use/site visitation and subsequent intentional/unintentional vandalism. Established sport climbing routes and concentrations of prehistoric rock are located in separate portions of the cave.
The Archaeological Society of Central
Oregon has adopted this site as part of its Site Stewardship (monitoring)
Program. The site will be visited on a regular, year round, basis to check for
vandalism and other forms of human and natural erosion. Site visits during the
winter closure period will be conducted from the surface, in a manner which is
not disturbing to the hibernating bats. Additionally,
3. Recreation and Geologic Resources.
Recreational Caving and Visitation Pictograph Cave provides recreational caving
opportunities for approximately 31 visitors each month (1995
With visitor compliance, the recently implemented winter closure should result in an estimated 37% decrease in annual visitation. Concern has been expressed regarding potential resource impacts from present and increased visitation to the site, including impacts to the geologic resources of Pictograph Cave. Portions of the original floor and ceiling of the lava tube remain preserved; however, some impact is evident in the East Passage though signs of breakage and physical damage to geologic features. The extent of these impacts has not yet been assessed; the trend of these impacts is unknown.
Sport Rock Climbing-Sport climbing occurs in the Skylight Entrance with the twilight zone (the daylight portion of the cave). Placement of bolted anchors for the purpose of sport climbing at Pictograph Cave began in 1992-93; the Central Oregon climbing community placed a self imposed moratorium on bolt placement in 1994. Approximately 90 bolts have been place at the Skylight Entrance extending approximately 125 feet underground, according to a 1995 Bolt Survey from the Willamette Valley Grotto. Pictograph cave provides opportunities for unique climbing experiences which cannot be found on typical vertical routes. Climbing routes in Pictograph Cave are extremely challenging; a variety of established climbing routes range in grade between 5.11 and 5.13.
Concern has been expressed that because sport climbing opportunities contribute to the recreational significance of Pictograph Cave, these opportunities should continue to be provided in the future. Concern has also been expressed that impacts to cave biota and cultural resources have resulted and will result from sport climbing activities, that placement of bolted anchors may potentially accelerate breakdown processes in the ceiling of the Skylight Entrance, and that sport climbing activities reduce the aesthetic quality of the caving experience due to the use of climbing chalk and equipment. Interim Cave Management Policy states that the use of hand drying agents will be avoided and that mitigation measures will be required if monitoring indicates the need to reduce visual impacts. Members of the climbing community have made efforts to reduce visual impacts during recent climbing activities at the cave.
Summary of Proposals Received as of
1. A DRAFT proposal was submitted by members of the Willamette Valley Grotto, Oregon Grotto and Southern Oregon Grotto of the National Speleological Society. The proposal recommends that bolted rock climbing equipment be removed from the cave over a three year period and that future climbing activity observe a "Leave No Trace" management policy.
2. According to verbal comments received to date, members of the Central Oregon climbing community are expected to submit proposals in the near future recommending that sport climbing opportunities be perpetuated at the site:
A. A proposal may recommend climbing
restrictions in a portion of the cave with some bolt removal and would
recommend that the
B. A second proposal may recommend that sport climbing activities be self regulated by the climbing community and would recommend the retention of all existing bolted anchors.
Input and comments regarding Pictograph Cave have been received TO DATE from: Willamette Valley, Oregon, and Jefferson State Grotto members; Dr. Leland Gilsen of the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office; members of the Central Oregon Climbers Organization; Jim Angell, the ACCESS fund; Greg Bettis, Rock Are Research Education; Scott E. Stuemke, Cultural Resource Department of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs; and numerous concerned individuals.
Site Visits: A climbing demonstration
The following letter regarding guano mining is the official response by Bat Conservation International (BCI) to concerns raised on the Caver's Digest that guano mining and the sale of bat guano by BCI was counter-productive to bat conservation. This letter is being posted simultaneously to BATLINE.
BCI's track record in protecting bats and caves speaks for itself. Here are the facts about bat guano extraction as it pertains to BCI and our objectives.
Texas bat caves have been a major source of commercial guano for close to 100 years. Records indicate that Bracken Cave supplied approximately 60-80 tons annually in the early part of this century, and the previous owners, the Marbach family, were still extracting up to 80 tons a year just prior to BCI purchasing the site. Extraction always occurs after the bats migrate south for the winter and is not known to have harmed the bats or the cave at any time.
The fact that land owners of Texas have profited by selling guano appears to have played a key role in assuring the long-term protection of major free-tailed bat caves. Fewer than 30 years ago, when the U.S. Air Force requested permission to bomb Bracken Cave shut, the owners raised stiff resistance in large part because of concern for guano resources. Ranchers across the state tend to value their bat caves more because they have at one time or another been sources of revenue. Prior to the discovery of oil, bat guano appears to have been the most important mineral export of Texas.
It is true that a relatively few sites have been seriously harmed by inappropriate shafts for guano removal. On the other hand, some, such as the one at Bracken, may have been helped. BCI is now working with land owners to seal shafts which caused problems. In the balance, bat guano extraction has likely helped save far more bats than it has harmed.
Several owners of major free-tail caves claim that the guano burns at about 20-year intervals, apparently by spontaneous combustion, if not extracted, and fires can threaten bats. Furthermore, I have personally seen caves abandoned by bats because guano filled their roosting areas sufficiently to make risks from predators intolerable. Bracken Cave itself likely would shelter many more bats if its lower passages were not blocked by 30-40 feet of guano. If paleontological or archeological artifacts remain, they are far below the level where recent guano is removed.
Our only interest in owning Bracken Cave is to ensure its protection as a key natural resource. Prior to our purchase, human vandalism and development posed serious threats. When we purchased the site, we inadvertently interrupted ongoing guano extraction by Malcomb Beck. He is one of America's leading experts on waste recycling and organic gardening, and he owns a major garden center a few miles from the cave. As a long-time BCI supporter, he asked to continue purchasing the guano, contributing a generous portion of sales proceeds back to BCI to further our conservation efforts, not only on behalf of the site, but also on behalf of saving these bats overwintering sites in Mexico. He currently buys up to 50 tons annually, which is harvested with a vacuum pump in about 21 days after the bats migrate south. Most of this is sold locally.
Recently, Malcomb offered to contribute additionally from his retail sales and include bat conservation information on his packaging, and we thought our members might enjoy having it available through our BCI catalogue. BCI's catalogue likely will not add even 1% to existing local sales.
At least a half a dozen U.S. companies already sell bat guano, and this was going on long before BCI existed. There probably are bat guano sellers who harm bats, but they exist with or without us, and are less likely to continue harming bats because we are raising the funds required to educate land owners, as well as guano purchasers, about the need to conserve bats. We always urge people to check on extraction techniques before buying bat guano from any seller. I also believe that most people are smart enough to differentiate between sale of an annually renewable resource and sale of speleothems that take thousands of years to develop.
I personally agree with the well known British environmentalist, Norman Myers, who advocates finding as many economic incentives as possible for local people to save wildlife. Simply stated, when saving bats is profitable, for whatever reason, more people will help save more bats. We need more incentives and fewer legal remedies if long-term success is to be achieved.
A good example of how guano extraction has helped save bats is found at Khao Chong Pron, Thailand. Poachers were devastating the once huge bat population until BCI convinced the government to hire a game warden, based on the fact that guano miners could make far more money in a sustainable manner than poachers could by selling the bats for food and aphrodisiacs. Since I convinced the government to hire a game warden, guano sales have climbed roughly from $12,000 to $100,000 annually. This is the best insurance these bats have of a secure future.
Bat guano users worldwide swear by it,
from the gardeners of central
I personally prefer any renewable source of fertilizer that can be obtained without harming the environment, and I especially would buy it if I knew that sales contributed to conservation efforts. Commonly used chemical fertilizers are mostly not renewable, and their production often harms the environment.
Merlin D. Tuttle
Submitted by: Bat Conservation
International, Jim "Crash" Kennedy, Project Coordinator North
American Bat House Research Project Bat Conservation International, Inc. Post
Office Box 162603 Austin, TX 78716-2603 USA
If you are not already a member of the
Conservation and Management Section of the National Speleological Society, you
are invited to join. Dues are $5.00 a year, payable to the
Yes, I would like to join the Conservation/Management Section. Here are my dues in the amount of $________ (dues of $5/year may be prepaid for up to three years).
this form with check/money order to the Secretary-Treasurer: