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Challenges in land management approval areas


w1qa
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I would like to point out a concern about challenges and the lack of any formal approval for them in areas that currently require land management approvals.

 

The National Park Service (aka NPS) in the US indicates that "Geo-caching activities on national park lands is PROHIBITED, however some activities are permitted under special conditions as determined by the individual park." I'm sure that around the world there are other land management entities that likewise generally prohibit GPS based activities without prior approval.

http://www.nps.gov/gis/gps/

http://www.nps.gov/policy/GPSguidance.pdf

 

I recently setup an Earthcache in a large US National Park. This required the approval of the local park official as well as approval from the Geological Society of America. I'm thankful that both the NPS and the Earthcache folks found the new listing worthy of acceptance.

 

With challenges I could create something like: take a photo at Old Faithful or some other location in Yellowstone National Park or do some other activity. While a challenge like taking a picture of Old Faithful is quite generic (and not necessarily GPS based) ... I can easily imagine a challenge that may require me to use my GPS for location assistance, e.g., get to a specific location, follow a specific path, etc. My interpretation would be that many challenges really should have prior land management approval - but there's no basis for that to happen in the way challenges have been implemented.

 

What concerns me more is given the fact that challenges are on / part of the Geocaching web site any land management agency may just consider challenges another form of geocache (which needs prior approvals). The risk? Challenges could result in a land management agency possibly denying previous approvals for caches?!

 

Although I'm concerned mostly about challenges in areas where geocaches would need approvals I think the larger issue is the general lack of challenge approvals. Though I can see the benefits of having the Geocaching community as a whole police challenges (the up/down thing) I wonder if the land management situation was carefully considered in the design of the challenge?

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I believe you're overthinking it. Unless you are challenging someone to go onto land they aren't allowed to be on in the first place (in which case, I'd expect the challenge to be archived), the person following the challenge is using the public land in exactly the way it was meant to be used.

 

Think of it this way. I could create my own website called www.bigparkchallenges.com, and post challenges to parks across the country. No prior permission would be needed, as I'm challenging people to do exactly what the park already says they can do.

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If I were to publish a guidebook to all of the waterfalls in national parks and wilderness areas and provided the GPS coordinates of each, would I need permission from the NPS or USFS? The answer is no.

 

Earthcaches, virtuals and challenges are only posted coordinates. Nothing is being left there and no laws are being broken (as long as participants aren't trespassing).

 

The only reason eartcaches require land manager approval because it's a GSA rule.

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Unless you are challenging someone to go onto land they aren't allowed to be on in the first place (in which case, I'd expect the challenge to be archived), the person following the challenge is using the public land in exactly the way it was meant to be used. Think of it this way. I could create my own website called www.bigparkchallenges.com, and post challenges to parks across the country. No prior permission would be needed, as I'm challenging people to do exactly what the park already says they can do.

Please consider taking a look at the links I provided. It is pretty well spelled out there - and covers anything where you give someone coordinates. The NPS policy document specifically mentions virtual caches, earthcaches and has a link to Waymarking as well.

 

I tried to cover your situation in my original post: if you tell someone to go to a park and take a picture of a feature I don't consider that "geocaching" and is typical of what the land management agency would expect visitors to do. If I tell someone to go to a specific GPS location or follow a trail of GPS waypoints given the NPS documents that would likely require prior approval. (Again - both scenarios under the auspices of Geocachng and not just person to person.)

 

Having successfully placed caches on property where land management approval is needed I think some of the concerns in my original post are valid.

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If I were to publish a guidebook to all of the waterfalls in national parks and wilderness areas and provided the GPS coordinates of each, would I need permission from the NPS or USFS? The answer is no.

That's probably accurate ... but its a little beyond the scope of my original post.

 

Earthcaches, virtuals and challenges are only posted coordinates. Nothing is being left there and no laws are being broken (as long as participants aren't trespassing). The only reason eartcaches require land manager approval because it's a GSA rule.

Please consider giving the NPS GPSguidance policy PDF a quick read (the link for which is in my original post). It is clear that Geocaching and other GPS oriented activities in US National Parks need approval whether or not the location in question is an Earthcache. There's a better explanation in those pages; for me to quote them here would be redundant (and consume quite a bit of space).

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If I were to publish a guidebook to all of the waterfalls in national parks and wilderness areas and provided the GPS coordinates of each, would I need permission from the NPS or USFS? The answer is no.

That's probably accurate ... but its a little beyond the scope of my original post.

 

Earthcaches, virtuals and challenges are only posted coordinates. Nothing is being left there and no laws are being broken (as long as participants aren't trespassing). The only reason eartcaches require land manager approval because it's a GSA rule.

 

Please consider giving the NPS GPSguidance policy PDF a quick read (the link for which is in my original post). It is clear that Geocaching and other GPS oriented activities in US National Parks need approval whether or not the location in question is an Earthcache. There's a better explanation in those pages; for me to quote them here would be redundant (and consume quite a bit of space).

 

No need for me to read them as I'm fully aware of their policies. Fact of the matter is they have no right to control virtual caches, waymarks, earthcaches or challenges. If they don't like a physical cache they remove it. If they don't approve of a virtual, waymark or challenge what are they going to do? There is nothing for them to remove. I guess they can take Groundspeak to court, but there is a little something called the 1st Amendment that would be on Groundspeak's side.

 

My example of a guidebook is not beyond the scope of your post. Virtuals, waymarks, and now challenges, are just ways of saying here's something cool, here are the coordinates, come and see it.

 

Land managers usually regulate physical caches by applying abandoned property or littering statutes. They essentially have no say in the matter if there is no physical container there.

 

That said, Groundspeak has historically played nice with the NPS in hopes of getting on their good side. Because of this if the NPS wanted something archived, physical or not, Groundspeak has done so. I have no reason to believe that they won't continue to do this with challenges.

Edited by briansnat
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You ever hear the expression, "Give an inch take a mile"? Yeah, that's what has happened.

 

First of all, you never needed permission for a virtual on NPS land. Second of all, one of the biggest complaints against earthcaching is the fact that you need permission to "place" one. Groundspeak didn't make the rules for earthcaching, nor do they enforce them.

 

NPS already banned Traditional caches. Not much more they can do, if they don't want a container on there property, that is there right. When it comes to publishing coordinates to a landmark? NPS CAN'T prohibit someone from going on there land just because the coordinates were published online, whereas they have thousands of other people at the same spot daily, i'm sure one more person doesn't make a difference.

 

If NPS doesn't want you at that spot on there land... They will post a no-trespassing sign. Otherwise, going to the spot is a free-for-all.

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I would like to point out a concern about challenges and the lack of any formal approval for them in areas that currently require land management approvals.

 

The National Park Service (aka NPS) in the US indicates that "Geo-caching activities on national park lands is PROHIBITED, however some activities are permitted under special conditions as determined by the individual park." I'm sure that around the world there are other land management entities that likewise generally prohibit GPS based activities without prior approval.

http://www.nps.gov/gis/gps/

http://www.nps.gov/policy/GPSguidance.pdf

 

I recently setup an Earthcache in a large US National Park. This required the approval of the local park official as well as approval from the Geological Society of America. I'm thankful that both the NPS and the Earthcache folks found the new listing worthy of acceptance.

 

With challenges I could create something like: take a photo at Old Faithful or some other location in Yellowstone National Park or do some other activity. While a challenge like taking a picture of Old Faithful is quite generic (and not necessarily GPS based) ... I can easily imagine a challenge that may require me to use my GPS for location assistance, e.g., get to a specific location, follow a specific path, etc. My interpretation would be that many challenges really should have prior land management approval - but there's no basis for that to happen in the way challenges have been implemented.

 

What concerns me more is given the fact that challenges are on / part of the Geocaching web site any land management agency may just consider challenges another form of geocache (which needs prior approvals). The risk? Challenges could result in a land management agency possibly denying previous approvals for caches?!

 

Although I'm concerned mostly about challenges in areas where geocaches would need approvals I think the larger issue is the general lack of challenge approvals. Though I can see the benefits of having the Geocaching community as a whole police challenges (the up/down thing) I wonder if the land management situation was carefully considered in the design of the challenge?

Virtuals are not treated the same as traditional caches. Keep the listings on established trails and there should be no problems. Many of us geocachers became Waymarkers and EarthCachers for this reason. Now we have challanges. If I want to show you a very impressive waterfall in a National Park on a hiking trail I have three choices. EarthCache, Waymark, or Challange. Some will issue crazy challanges, others will use them correctly for others to enjoy. Waymarking failed in my area, but my work that seemed a waste of time can now be used as challanges.

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