Courtesy Nate Wyeth

Public comments sought for proposed cave restrictions

The Deschutes National Forest is seeking public comment on a proposed Cave Management Forest Order that would prohibit specific activities in and around caves where these activities are causing adverse impacts to cave resources.

Most of these prohibitions are taken from existing forest orders and the proposed order would combine these orders into one with some additional changes.

Public comment on this proposed forest order will be accepted for 30 calendar days from June 23rd and the public comment period will end on July 23rd, 2020 at midnight.

The draft environmental assessment is available online at: www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=57443. Written comments must be submitted using one of the following methods:

  • Electronic comments including attachments can be submitted to comments-pacificnorthwest-deschutes@usda.gov . Electronic comments must be submitted as part of the e-mail message, or as an attachment in Microsoft Word (.doc), rich text format (.rtf), or portable document format (.pdf) only.
  • For electronically submitted comments, the sender should receive an automated acknowledgment from the agency as confirmation of receipt. If the sender does not receive an automated acknowledgment of the receipt of the comments, it is the sender’s responsibility to ensure timely receipt by other means.
  • Postal mail or hand-delivery (Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding holidays) to: Holly Jewkes (Forest Supervisor), c/o Sasha Fertig, 63095 Deschutes Market Rd, Bend, OR 97701.
  • FAX: 541-383-5553.

Only people who submit timely and specific written comments will have eligibility to file an objection. Names and contact information submitted with comments will become part of the public record and may be released under the Freedom of Information Act. Additional information can be obtained from: Sasha Fertig (Environmental Coordinator), 541-383-5563, sasha.fertig@usda.gov.

Background

The 1988 Federal Cave Resources Protection Act mandates that Federal agencies secure, protect, and preserve significant caves on Federal lands for the perpetual use, enjoyment, and benefit of all people.

On the Deschutes National Forest there are approximately 700 known caves. Adverse impacts are commonly caused by Forest users; for example, vandalism, lighting fires, playing music, excavating and removing geologic and archaeologic resources, installing permanent anchors or bolts for climbing, leaving human and domestic animal body waste, and disturbing bats and other wildlife. In addition, white-nose syndrome in bats has been detected in Washington and northern California. Caused by a fungal pathogen, white-nose syndrome causes skin irritation that awakens bats from hibernation, resulting in spent energy that is needed to survive through the winter.

In addition to current prohibitions, the proposed Cave Management Forest Order would:

  • Protect all cave sinks and a 50-foot buffer from any cave entrance or opening.
  • Prohibit lighting, maintaining, attending, or using any burning material; digging, excavating, and/or depositing any foreign material; playing live or recorded music; broadcasting glitter, dust (beyond what is naturally produced by walking and crawling), smoke, or other substances into the air; slacklining; and depositing any domestic animal body waste within all caves.
  • Prohibit entering or being in Lava River Cave (west tube, show cave) from October 1 through April 30 (winter closure), or until the beginning of the open season, whichever is latest; entering or being in Lava River Cave (west tube, show cave) from May 1 to September 30, or after the end of the open season, whichever is earliest, between the hours of 5:00pm and 9:00am; entering or being in the last 300 feet of the west tube (west tube, show cave); entering or being in the gated east tube of the cave year round; and climbing or bouldering within the cave, cave sink, and within 50 feet of any cave entrance, opening, or cave sink.
  • Prohibit entering or being within Skeleton Cave year-round and climbing or bouldering inside or outside the gate at the cave entrance from October 1 through April 30.
  • Close year-round Bat, Charlie the Cave (both upper and lower chambers), Cody Borehole, Eternity, Infinity, Lavacicle, and Wind caves.
  • Seasonally close Arnold Ice, Lee’s, Lower Quartz Mountain, and Skylight caves from (October 1 through April 30).

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