Forest Service wants rule update for subterranean caves | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Forest Service wants rule update for subterranean caves

March 10, 2020 - 10:21 AM

BEND, Ore. - The U.S. Forest Service wants to change the rules for recreation in the hundreds of underground caves that dot the Deschutes National Forest to protect them from vandalism.

Rules to shield the caves — and the bats that call them their home — have been in effect since the 1990s, The Bulletin reported Tuesday.

Advances in mobile mapping technology and an increase in central Oregon's population, however, have put more of a strain on the 700 known caves. Problems include litter, graffiti, loud music that can disturb bats, bolts and anchors that have been illegally installed for climbing and human feces, the newspaper said.

Streamlining the rules will make it easier for the public to understand them and will give the laws more teeth, officials said.

Garbage and human waste are common sights in many caves, said Dave Nissen, owner of Wanderlust Tours, a Bend-based company that runs tours to many of the area’s caves.

“There’s been inappropriate behaviour by a small minority of cave users,” he said, adding that every year he and his staff haul bags of trash out of caves near Bend.

Volunteers are also organized to sandblast the graffiti from the cave walls, he said.

Tom Rodhouse, an ecologist with the National Park Service, said the efforts will also help bats, which use some of central Oregon’s caves for protection in both summer and winter. During hibernation, bats have limited energy and repeated disturbances can cause them to starve to death, he said.

“Human disturbance in key winter hibernation and summer pup-rearing caves has, and continues to be a problem for bats,” said Rodhouse. “I am glad that bat habitat is on their radar.”

Kassidy Kern, a spokeswoman for the Deschutes National Forest, said federal officials have seen “folks using (the caves) in ways and at a rate that we have not seen before.”

The deadline for the public to make comments about the proposed changes is April 2.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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