Earthcache Denial - FYI

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Earthcache Denial - FYI

Postby wvangler on Thu Jul 14, 2011 2:20 pm

I have been working feverishly for two months to develop an Earthcache at a very cool site in the MNF near the scenic highway. It was to be called "Death from the sky, Life from a bucket". It was my hope to develop the cache at the site where each year the WV DNR and WV Trout Unlimited form a 1/4 mile long bucket brigade to haul 9 tons of limestone sand one bucket at a time to a dump site in an ephemeral ditch feeding the Middle Fork of Williams River. The Middle Fork has been dead from acid rain since the middle of the 20th century and through the efforts of TU and the DNR at this site this famous stream is now coming back to life (we found young of the year native brook trout this spring for the first time ever).

Even though I put a lot of emphasis on the underlying geology of the area and highlighted why acid rain affects different watersheds differently and even though I highlighted how acid precipitation is created, I had to revise numerous times before getting approval from the Earthcache reviewer. He thought it sounded too biological even with all the geology crocheted through the description and the requirements. But ultimately, I was able to get approval from the reviewer.

Then came the land management approval. I have been in discussions with the Monongahela National Forest about permission for this Earthcache site for a few weeks now. I just found out a few minutes ago that they have denied approval since Earthcaching, while no container is being placed, does not fall within the guidelines/prescription for Wilderness according to the Wilderness Act. We talked at length (very professionally too I might add) for almost 30 minutes about this. Despite my requests for them to give me more clarity as to "what" exactly didn't fit their interpretation vs. other wilderness use (i.e., hiking, horseback riding, etc) I honestly never could get a response that I could truly comprehend. They tried to encourage me to find a new site outside of the wilderness area and resubmit, but honestly I'm so disheartened that I don't think I will. Primarily because there are no other limestone dump sites with even remotely this same dynamic - use of volunteers + completely dead stream prior to effort + recent success + highlighting a backcountry experience.

Yet again, Wilderness rules swallow up geocaching efforts. I thought I'd post this so that if anyone else was considering creating an Earthcache within a wilderness area (e.g., Dolly Sods) you can forget it.
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Re: Earthcache Denial - FYI

Postby Spotty Spotty Pony Girl on Thu Jul 14, 2011 4:30 pm

Well that is interesting.

Hiking in the area is allowed, if I understood you correctly. But hiking with intent to learn is not. (And yes, that was meant snarkily.)

Could the concern be that having an earthcache will increase foot traffic to an unacceptable number?
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Re: Earthcache Denial - FYI

Postby BobnLinda on Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:19 pm

Common sense has been abandoning the USFS for years. Since it was quietly taken over from within by the "hippie environmental types". If your denial came from the District Rangers office you could take you request to the Supervisors Office in Elkins. Someone has to provide a reasonable explanation as to why it is acceptable to hike,hunt,fish,take photographs, birdwatch,look at wildflowers, horseback ride, pick berries, etc. in a Wilderness area but not have an Earthcache with no physical disturbance. Another longer term option is to wait for the Mon Plan to be revised and try to get earthcaches approved through the official planning process, since those that work for the FS are unable to vary from the documents that they reference. You already have TU as an ally. This is hard for me to say; you may also need to enlist the Serria Club and WV Highlands Conservancy; they have alot of experience in getting things changed. In closing; if an Earthcahe is against wilderness rules, then the rules and the control of what is allowable has gone to far. The public should have the right to use "THEIR" land in a way that has not greater impact on the land than what is now allowed.
Last edited by BobnLinda on Sat Jul 16, 2011 8:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Earthcache Denial - FYI

Postby 89SC on Fri Jul 15, 2011 10:27 pm

Mountain bikes are not allowed in Wilderness Areas which I agree with. On the other hand, the Earthcache ruling is just plain stupid.
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Re: Earthcache Denial - FYI

Postby wvangler78 on Sat Jul 16, 2011 9:16 pm

Didnt get to make it to the camput or bucket brigade so I was wondering if you had got the earthcache setup for there! Seems kinda fishy to me personally but this is the same area that was going to let you drive through cranberry to look at leaves several years back! Personally for as much work as you have did for cold water fisheries you think they would be a little bit more open to showing off some of that work thats been done!! Kinda goofy!
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Re: Earthcache Denial - FYI

Postby wvangler on Mon Jul 18, 2011 6:46 am

BobnLinda wrote:since those that work for the FS are unable to vary from the documents that they reference.


You nailed it right there. The explanation kept coming back to "Geocaching does not fit into the Wilderness Act plans".

Despite the arbitrary and silly ruling they were professional and even emailed me a map of other "suitable" locations. Unfortunately, none of the other locations are even remotely as interesting as the Scenic Highway site where over 150 volunteers from TU and Wal-Mart come out each year to form a bucket brigade taking 9 tons of limestone sand into the wilderness one bucket at a time. Having an earthcache site at a dump truck limestone sand site just doesn't have the same "wow" factor that I strive for.

I've got so many policy influence balls in the air particularly with Marcellus Shale on a state level and some clearcutting concerns on the forest plan level now that earthcaching doesn't make the cut. ...and me trying to join up with Sierra Club and Highlands Conservancy? Yeah, that's not happening.

I'm probably just going to let this thing sit and stew for a while. I may have an earthcache published at a non-wilderness limestone treatment site at the headwater of another trout stream in the next few months that is as I said, less interesting, but it won't be a park n grab. They did tell me that if I wanted to use the site at the junction of the pipeline and FR70 in the Roaring Plains (Wilderness) at the head of the South Fork of Red Creek I could since it is on impacted property (pipeline and forest road). Which seemed like they were talking out of both sides of their mouths. I told them that my Cranberry Wilderness Earthcache would have minimal environmental impact since it was on the North-South Trail which is WELL used. To that they responded "it isn't in the Wilderness Act plans and doesn't promote Wilderness Values", but in the Roaring Plains it is ok because it is on "impacted land".
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