Caves and Karsts
A splendiferous serenade of subterranean sites is hidden beneath many Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands spread throughout the west. Eleven BLM States contain caves and karst (…karst is a cousin to the cave that typically involves an area of limestone terrain characterized by sinks, ravines, and underground streams) lands, and interestingly, the BLM manages over 1,500 caves in these States.
Just recently BLM staff got an up-close look a lava tube in central Oregon. In early April, ten BLM and three U.S. Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Specialists participated in a full-day training session on Cave & Karst Management, led by BLM's National Cave Specialist, Jim Goodbar, and the Carlsbad District Cave Specialist, Aaron Stockton. The course included a short classroom session at the BLM Prineville Office covering the Federal Cave Protection Act of 1988 and other Cave/Karst Management laws, regulations, policies and procedures, as well as the background and policies specific to preventing the spread of White Nose Syndrome (WNS) among bat colonies.
The field portion of the Cave & Karst Management training involved visiting a lava tube east of Bend, Oregon, and finding evidence for determining that the cave meets the criteria for “Significant Cave status under the Federal Cave Protection Act” (…in other words, it has one or more of the following: biota, historic or archaeological resources, geologic/mineralogic/paleontologic features, hydrologic resources. recreational, educational or scientific values). Prior to leaving the site, the group practiced decontamination procedures designed to prevent any spread of WNS from cave to cave.
The BLM uses various management techniques to help balance land use activities and the protection of the nation’s fragile cave and karst resources. Conservation also is a key component of the caves and karst management. The primary approach is three-fold:
Detection – The detection phase may use several different techniques; field examinations, known data files, satellite images, and geophysical techniques such as natural potential, induced resistivity, and ground penetrating radar;
Avoidance – The avoidance phase may be as easy as moving a project or activity to eliminate conflicts (e.g., roads, power lines, and facilities may be moved to avoid construction problems and protect cave and karst resources); and
Mitigation – Mitigation measures may be applied to lessen any impacts that can’t be avoided (i.e. Berms may be constructed along roads to avoid spills or runoff from entering caves and ground water recharge points).