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USFWS and other land manager policies


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So, I bring up a subject and say my piece and then get told the problem is me.

 

It is getting harder and harder to place caches. The amount of hoops one now must jump through is making it very difficult for anyone to do anything out of the ordinary. It is almost like we can play, but only in the little sandbox, for which we're given.

 

Honestly, who the heck is going to sue the reviewers or GC in general? There are caches on the side of cliffs! If someone falls while trying to get it, whose fault is that?

 

It is exactly what I said up front, it sure seems like the reviewers are more and more like over-eager Home Owner Association board members. They want everything to be, look, and act the same. Some of the answers above seem to back this up.

 

The latest I got on a cache I just tried to publish is I now must go get the county's permission to place a cache on a county right of way. Like the county gives a hoot what is there. All this craziness is for, is to make it so difficult to do something out of the ordinary, that one simply says screw it and drops it all together. How is that good for the community?? What about the old phone booth caches? Would those now need the permission of the phone company to place them? Yes it is equivalent to this. I don't get it, obviously.

 

How hard is it to phone the county and ask?

 

Who at the county are you going to ask for permission to hide a geocache on a right-of-way? Who has the authority to give that permission?

 

Most rural roads in MN, at least the gravel roads, are owned by the township and not the county.

We've encountered this over and over with geocaching and my employer.

People think that asking a seasonal GS-5 Park Ranger in the visitor center suffices for their hide, and then use it as fodder for sufficient permission.

 

The fact remains that the Refuge Manager is the one who would make the call, and generally only after a Special Use Permit is applied for, or a ruling is made under compatible use for that specific piece of land (park, refuge, district, etc.).

 

So, do all Reviewers know all things for all areas? No. But they sure work hard to make sure that we can still place caches.

 

Is there room for improvement? Certainly. On all sides of the issue--including those that outnumber the volunteer Reviewers: All of the geocachers out here.

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So, I bring up a subject and say my piece and then get told the problem is me.

 

It is getting harder and harder to place caches. The amount of hoops one now must jump through is making it very difficult for anyone to do anything out of the ordinary. It is almost like we can play, but only in the little sandbox, for which we're given.

 

Honestly, who the heck is going to sue the reviewers or GC in general? There are caches on the side of cliffs! If someone falls while trying to get it, whose fault is that?

 

It is exactly what I said up front, it sure seems like the reviewers are more and more like over-eager Home Owner Association board members. They want everything to be, look, and act the same. Some of the answers above seem to back this up.

 

The latest I got on a cache I just tried to publish is I now must go get the county's permission to place a cache on a county right of way. Like the county gives a hoot what is there. All this craziness is for, is to make it so difficult to do something out of the ordinary, that one simply says screw it and drops it all together. How is that good for the community?? What about the old phone booth caches? Would those now need the permission of the phone company to place them? Yes it is equivalent to this. I don't get it, obviously.

 

How hard is it to phone the county and ask?

 

Who at the county are you going to ask for permission to hide a geocache on a right-of-way? Who has the authority to give that permission?

 

Most rural roads in MN, at least the gravel roads, are owned by the township and not the county.

We've encountered this over and over with geocaching and my employer.

People think that asking a seasonal GS-5 Park Ranger in the visitor center suffices for their hide, and then use it as fodder for sufficient permission.

 

The fact remains that the Refuge Manager is the one who would make the call, and generally only after a Special Use Permit is applied for, or a ruling is made under compatible use for that specific piece of land (park, refuge, district, etc.).

 

So, do all Reviewers know all things for all areas? No. But they sure work hard to make sure that we can still place caches.

 

Is there room for improvement? Certainly. On all sides of the issue--including those that outnumber the volunteer Reviewers: All of the geocachers out here.

My first thought is it sounds like a training issue. If the Land Manager doesn't have the time or inclination to properly train their seasonal staff on their responsibilities, then maybe the seasonal workers shouldn't be put in a situation where this sort of thing might happen.

 

The alternative is to have a clear policy on geocaching posted on the website for the area, or in public areas. Doesn't leave much room for guessing if there's adequate communication.

Link to comment

So, I bring up a subject and say my piece and then get told the problem is me.

 

It is getting harder and harder to place caches. The amount of hoops one now must jump through is making it very difficult for anyone to do anything out of the ordinary. It is almost like we can play, but only in the little sandbox, for which we're given.

 

Honestly, who the heck is going to sue the reviewers or GC in general? There are caches on the side of cliffs! If someone falls while trying to get it, whose fault is that?

 

It is exactly what I said up front, it sure seems like the reviewers are more and more like over-eager Home Owner Association board members. They want everything to be, look, and act the same. Some of the answers above seem to back this up.

 

The latest I got on a cache I just tried to publish is I now must go get the county's permission to place a cache on a county right of way. Like the county gives a hoot what is there. All this craziness is for, is to make it so difficult to do something out of the ordinary, that one simply says screw it and drops it all together. How is that good for the community?? What about the old phone booth caches? Would those now need the permission of the phone company to place them? Yes it is equivalent to this. I don't get it, obviously.

 

How hard is it to phone the county and ask?

 

Who at the county are you going to ask for permission to hide a geocache on a right-of-way? Who has the authority to give that permission?

 

Most rural roads in MN, at least the gravel roads, are owned by the township and not the county.

We've encountered this over and over with geocaching and my employer.

People think that asking a seasonal GS-5 Park Ranger in the visitor center suffices for their hide, and then use it as fodder for sufficient permission.

 

The fact remains that the Refuge Manager is the one who would make the call, and generally only after a Special Use Permit is applied for, or a ruling is made under compatible use for that specific piece of land (park, refuge, district, etc.).

 

So, do all Reviewers know all things for all areas? No. But they sure work hard to make sure that we can still place caches.

 

Is there room for improvement? Certainly. On all sides of the issue--including those that outnumber the volunteer Reviewers: All of the geocachers out here.

My first thought is it sounds like a training issue. If the Land Manager doesn't have the time or inclination to properly train their seasonal staff on their responsibilities, then maybe the seasonal workers shouldn't be put in a situation where this sort of thing might happen.

 

The alternative is to have a clear policy on geocaching posted on the website for the area, or in public areas. Doesn't leave much room for guessing if there's adequate communication.

I agree. If I walk into a Ranger station/Visitor Center and ask about placing a geocache and the person behind the desk tells me to go ahead, I would assume I have permission. To me, as a geocacher, I wouldn't think that a higher authority would need to be contacted. As far as I know, or care, the Ranger I spoke with had all the authority needed to either grant permission or to pass the request along to someone who does.

Link to comment

We've encountered this over and over with geocaching and my employer.

People think that asking a seasonal GS-5 Park Ranger in the visitor center suffices for their hide, and then use it as fodder for sufficient permission.

 

The fact remains that the Refuge Manager is the one who would make the call, and generally only after a Special Use Permit is applied for, or a ruling is made under compatible use for that specific piece of land (park, refuge, district, etc.).

 

So, do all Reviewers know all things for all areas? No. But they sure work hard to make sure that we can still place caches.

 

Is there room for improvement? Certainly. On all sides of the issue--including those that outnumber the volunteer Reviewers: All of the geocachers out here.

My first thought is it sounds like a training issue. If the Land Manager doesn't have the time or inclination to properly train their seasonal staff on their responsibilities, then maybe the seasonal workers shouldn't be put in a situation where this sort of thing might happen.

 

The alternative is to have a clear policy on geocaching posted on the website for the area, or in public areas. Doesn't leave much room for guessing if there's adequate communication.

For Federal agencies (as far as I can tell), there is really nothing to "train" on for geocaching. Other than at specific stations (offices, parks, refuges, etc.), there isn't any talk at the top about geocaching as a priority, so it isn't a "training issue" at all.

 

It all depends on how it is presented to the person they are talking to. How is the cacher presenting their case to the person they are talking to? Are they being forthright and clear about what they are asking? Are they casually leaving out details about what geocaching is?

 

You see, it is all about how it is presented for how someone will respond. Generally people have not asked at all at my specific station if they can hide caches--they've just assumed they can because it is "public land". However, I then had to go back and sweep up caches published on Refuge lands across Alaska with the help of our current, local Reviewer. Now the Reviewer knows exactly what needs to be in place for permission at USFWS lands in Alaska (and elsewhere in the country), and also has access to the most current overlays of federal properties including USFWS Refuges.

 

Does every Reviewer have that information? No. Should they? Yes! Groundspeak should really work with Reviewers to be sure that those Reviewers have the tools they need to make a decision about geocaching on certain lands. The assumption all too often becomes, "If I don't know about a policy, there must be no reason stopping a cache publication...", when in fact the opposite is true.

 

And I'll admit that it is very confusing to know which USFWS Refuges allow geocaches and which do not. Some do! (But they have geocaching addressed in their Refuge CCP as a compatible use, and also likely have a local Friends group, staff member(s), or other volunteers who help monitor and maintain the listings...)

 

The bottom line is that Reviewers have a lot to pay attention to, and they really need to know--specifically for USFWS and other DOI agencies--who "permission" must be granted by for a geocache placement. Local geocaching organizations can also be proactive by approaching their local USFWS Refuges and asking about a Special Use Permit, or if Geocaching could be found as a compatible use under the CCP for that specific station. The Refuge Manager or Project Lead for that station makes that call about whether or not a geocache or geocache event is something that can happen there. The overall stance on geocaching for the USFWS is that it is not a compatible use:

The placement of any object on a National Wildlife Refuge is a violation of several Federal regulations including the following:

16USC668dd, 50CFR 27.93, Abandonment of Property

16USC668dd, 50 CFR26.21a, Trespass

16USC668dd 50CFR 27.63 Search for and removal of other valued objects

16USC668dd 50 CFR 27.97 Private Operations

Other violations of federal law may apply.

 

But, do Reviewers ask geocachers for the Special Use Permit from the Refuge if that cacher says, "I have permission from the Refuge to place this geocache"? I'd guess that most do not. That geocacher could have received "permission" from someone who is not at all aware of the CFR, CCP, or other issues regarding geocache placement. The person geocachers must talk to is the Refuge Manager, but I'll guess that the Reviewer isn't going to know or check most of the time when they are told via a cache submission that the cache placer "has permission".

 

This goes the same for HOAs, city, county, borough, regional, state, and other federal land managers. Do geocachers know who to ask for permission on the ladder for each land manager? Likely not. Do Reviewers? Likely not. But this doesn't change the fact that we play a really abstract, covert, small-potatoes game that really doesn't register as a priority for most land managers until they realize there is a trespass or property damage issue. And, as geocachers, we shouldn't ever think that we can place a cache somewhere and let it go "until there's an issue". That's backwards. And wrong. And in most cases illegal.

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If I walk into a Ranger station/Visitor Center and ask about placing a geocache and the person behind the desk tells me to go ahead, I would assume I have permission. To me, as a geocacher, I wouldn't think that a higher authority would need to be contacted. As far as I know, or care, the Ranger I spoke with had all the authority needed to either grant permission or to pass the request along to someone who does.

And this assumption would be wrong.

 

If you want to place a cache at your local Target, do you take the 15-year-old cashier's word for it, or do you ask to speak with the Manager? It should be no different with land managers and requests for permission on their lands.

Edited by NeverSummer
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If I walk into a Ranger station/Visitor Center and ask about placing a geocache and the person behind the desk tells me to go ahead, I would assume I have permission. To me, as a geocacher, I wouldn't think that a higher authority would need to be contacted. As far as I know, or care, the Ranger I spoke with had all the authority needed to either grant permission or to pass the request along to someone who does.
And this assumption would be wrong.
One way for the cache owner to avoid this situation is not to ask for permission when making the initial encounter, but to ask who would have the authority to grant permission.

 

This approach avoids problems with underlings granting permission that they are not authorized to grant, and it also avoids problems with underlings automatically saying "No" because saying "No" is the safe approach.

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If I walk into a Ranger station/Visitor Center and ask about placing a geocache and the person behind the desk tells me to go ahead, I would assume I have permission. To me, as a geocacher, I wouldn't think that a higher authority would need to be contacted. As far as I know, or care, the Ranger I spoke with had all the authority needed to either grant permission or to pass the request along to someone who does.
And this assumption would be wrong.
One way for the cache owner to avoid this situation is not to ask for permission when making the initial encounter, but to ask who would have the authority to grant permission.

 

This approach avoids problems with underlings granting permission that they are not authorized to grant, and it also avoids problems with underlings automatically saying "No" because saying "No" is the safe approach.

This is a good way to think about it. Well put. +1. Etc.

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But, do Reviewers ask geocachers for the Special Use Permit from the Refuge if that cacher says, "I have permission from the Refuge to place this geocache"? I'd guess that most do not. That geocacher could have received "permission" from someone who is not at all aware of the CFR, CCP, or other issues regarding geocache placement. The person geocachers must talk to is the Refuge Manager, but I'll guess that the Reviewer isn't going to know or check most of the time when they are told via a cache submission that the cache placer "has permission".

 

And this assumption would be wrong. Verifiable permission, especially in areas like that, would be sought.

Link to comment
If I walk into a Ranger station/Visitor Center and ask about placing a geocache and the person behind the desk tells me to go ahead, I would assume I have permission. To me, as a geocacher, I wouldn't think that a higher authority would need to be contacted. As far as I know, or care, the Ranger I spoke with had all the authority needed to either grant permission or to pass the request along to someone who does.
And this assumption would be wrong.
One way for the cache owner to avoid this situation is not to ask for permission when making the initial encounter, but to ask who would have the authority to grant permission.

 

This approach avoids problems with underlings granting permission that they are not authorized to grant, and it also avoids problems with underlings automatically saying "No" because saying "No" is the safe approach.

 

Problem is not all parties may be informed.

I had a mystery cache with the final in a nice office park with a pond and a bridge...very scenic. I actually got permission from the building management because it was a mystery and would not see much traffic. Problem is, the security office was approaching several people who searched for the cache and had no idea about the cache. Sometimes it doesn't matter who gave permission if those in security/law enforcement aren't or cannot be in the know. Fat lot of good permission is when someone is getting run off or held for trespassing or background checks.

 

I ended up just moving the cache to a public right-of-way. Not nearly as interesting, but close enough that folks could still park close to where the original hiding spot was. I gave the original waypoint as well.

Edited by J Grouchy
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We've encountered this over and over with geocaching and my employer.

People think that asking a seasonal GS-5 Park Ranger in the visitor center suffices for their hide, and then use it as fodder for sufficient permission.

 

The fact remains that the Refuge Manager is the one who would make the call, and generally only after a Special Use Permit is applied for, or a ruling is made under compatible use for that specific piece of land (park, refuge, district, etc.).

 

So, do all Reviewers know all things for all areas? No. But they sure work hard to make sure that we can still place caches.

 

Is there room for improvement? Certainly. On all sides of the issue--including those that outnumber the volunteer Reviewers: All of the geocachers out here.

My first thought is it sounds like a training issue. If the Land Manager doesn't have the time or inclination to properly train their seasonal staff on their responsibilities, then maybe the seasonal workers shouldn't be put in a situation where this sort of thing might happen.

 

The alternative is to have a clear policy on geocaching posted on the website for the area, or in public areas. Doesn't leave much room for guessing if there's adequate communication.

For Federal agencies (as far as I can tell), there is really nothing to "train" on for geocaching. Other than at specific stations (offices, parks, refuges, etc.), there isn't any talk at the top about geocaching as a priority, so it isn't a "training issue" at all.

 

It all depends on how it is presented to the person they are talking to. How is the cacher presenting their case to the person they are talking to? Are they being forthright and clear about what they are asking? Are they casually leaving out details about what geocaching is?

 

You see, it is all about how it is presented for how someone will respond. Generally people have not asked at all at my specific station if they can hide caches--they've just assumed they can because it is "public land". However, I then had to go back and sweep up caches published on Refuge lands across Alaska with the help of our current, local Reviewer. Now the Reviewer knows exactly what needs to be in place for permission at USFWS lands in Alaska (and elsewhere in the country), and also has access to the most current overlays of federal properties including USFWS Refuges.

 

Does every Reviewer have that information? No. Should they? Yes! Groundspeak should really work with Reviewers to be sure that those Reviewers have the tools they need to make a decision about geocaching on certain lands. The assumption all too often becomes, "If I don't know about a policy, there must be no reason stopping a cache publication...", when in fact the opposite is true.

 

And I'll admit that it is very confusing to know which USFWS Refuges allow geocaches and which do not. Some do! (But they have geocaching addressed in their Refuge CCP as a compatible use, and also likely have a local Friends group, staff member(s), or other volunteers who help monitor and maintain the listings...)

 

The bottom line is that Reviewers have a lot to pay attention to, and they really need to know--specifically for USFWS and other DOI agencies--who "permission" must be granted by for a geocache placement. Local geocaching organizations can also be proactive by approaching their local USFWS Refuges and asking about a Special Use Permit, or if Geocaching could be found as a compatible use under the CCP for that specific station. The Refuge Manager or Project Lead for that station makes that call about whether or not a geocache or geocache event is something that can happen there. The overall stance on geocaching for the USFWS is that it is not a compatible use:

The placement of any object on a National Wildlife Refuge is a violation of several Federal regulations including the following:

16USC668dd, 50CFR 27.93, Abandonment of Property

16USC668dd, 50 CFR26.21a, Trespass

16USC668dd 50CFR 27.63 Search for and removal of other valued objects

16USC668dd 50 CFR 27.97 Private Operations

Other violations of federal law may apply.

 

But, do Reviewers ask geocachers for the Special Use Permit from the Refuge if that cacher says, "I have permission from the Refuge to place this geocache"? I'd guess that most do not. That geocacher could have received "permission" from someone who is not at all aware of the CFR, CCP, or other issues regarding geocache placement. The person geocachers must talk to is the Refuge Manager, but I'll guess that the Reviewer isn't going to know or check most of the time when they are told via a cache submission that the cache placer "has permission".

 

This goes the same for HOAs, city, county, borough, regional, state, and other federal land managers. Do geocachers know who to ask for permission on the ladder for each land manager? Likely not. Do Reviewers? Likely not. But this doesn't change the fact that we play a really abstract, covert, small-potatoes game that really doesn't register as a priority for most land managers until they realize there is a trespass or property damage issue. And, as geocachers, we shouldn't ever think that we can place a cache somewhere and let it go "until there's an issue". That's backwards. And wrong. And in most cases illegal.

Sorry, but not buying into the argument that failed training of policies relevant to performing ones job is not the issue here, and that under some perverse leap of logic that Reviewers and Grounspeak are somehow to blame. Truly unbelievable!

Link to comment

We've encountered this over and over with geocaching and my employer.

People think that asking a seasonal GS-5 Park Ranger in the visitor center suffices for their hide, and then use it as fodder for sufficient permission.

 

The fact remains that the Refuge Manager is the one who would make the call, and generally only after a Special Use Permit is applied for, or a ruling is made under compatible use for that specific piece of land (park, refuge, district, etc.).

 

So, do all Reviewers know all things for all areas? No. But they sure work hard to make sure that we can still place caches.

 

Is there room for improvement? Certainly. On all sides of the issue--including those that outnumber the volunteer Reviewers: All of the geocachers out here.

My first thought is it sounds like a training issue. If the Land Manager doesn't have the time or inclination to properly train their seasonal staff on their responsibilities, then maybe the seasonal workers shouldn't be put in a situation where this sort of thing might happen.

 

The alternative is to have a clear policy on geocaching posted on the website for the area, or in public areas. Doesn't leave much room for guessing if there's adequate communication.

For Federal agencies (as far as I can tell), there is really nothing to "train" on for geocaching. Other than at specific stations (offices, parks, refuges, etc.), there isn't any talk at the top about geocaching as a priority, so it isn't a "training issue" at all.

 

It all depends on how it is presented to the person they are talking to. How is the cacher presenting their case to the person they are talking to? Are they being forthright and clear about what they are asking? Are they casually leaving out details about what geocaching is?

 

You see, it is all about how it is presented for how someone will respond. Generally people have not asked at all at my specific station if they can hide caches--they've just assumed they can because it is "public land". However, I then had to go back and sweep up caches published on Refuge lands across Alaska with the help of our current, local Reviewer. Now the Reviewer knows exactly what needs to be in place for permission at USFWS lands in Alaska (and elsewhere in the country), and also has access to the most current overlays of federal properties including USFWS Refuges.

 

Does every Reviewer have that information? No. Should they? Yes! Groundspeak should really work with Reviewers to be sure that those Reviewers have the tools they need to make a decision about geocaching on certain lands. The assumption all too often becomes, "If I don't know about a policy, there must be no reason stopping a cache publication...", when in fact the opposite is true.

 

And I'll admit that it is very confusing to know which USFWS Refuges allow geocaches and which do not. Some do! (But they have geocaching addressed in their Refuge CCP as a compatible use, and also likely have a local Friends group, staff member(s), or other volunteers who help monitor and maintain the listings...)

 

The bottom line is that Reviewers have a lot to pay attention to, and they really need to know--specifically for USFWS and other DOI agencies--who "permission" must be granted by for a geocache placement. Local geocaching organizations can also be proactive by approaching their local USFWS Refuges and asking about a Special Use Permit, or if Geocaching could be found as a compatible use under the CCP for that specific station. The Refuge Manager or Project Lead for that station makes that call about whether or not a geocache or geocache event is something that can happen there. The overall stance on geocaching for the USFWS is that it is not a compatible use:

The placement of any object on a National Wildlife Refuge is a violation of several Federal regulations including the following:

16USC668dd, 50CFR 27.93, Abandonment of Property

16USC668dd, 50 CFR26.21a, Trespass

16USC668dd 50CFR 27.63 Search for and removal of other valued objects

16USC668dd 50 CFR 27.97 Private Operations

Other violations of federal law may apply.

 

But, do Reviewers ask geocachers for the Special Use Permit from the Refuge if that cacher says, "I have permission from the Refuge to place this geocache"? I'd guess that most do not. That geocacher could have received "permission" from someone who is not at all aware of the CFR, CCP, or other issues regarding geocache placement. The person geocachers must talk to is the Refuge Manager, but I'll guess that the Reviewer isn't going to know or check most of the time when they are told via a cache submission that the cache placer "has permission".

 

This goes the same for HOAs, city, county, borough, regional, state, and other federal land managers. Do geocachers know who to ask for permission on the ladder for each land manager? Likely not. Do Reviewers? Likely not. But this doesn't change the fact that we play a really abstract, covert, small-potatoes game that really doesn't register as a priority for most land managers until they realize there is a trespass or property damage issue. And, as geocachers, we shouldn't ever think that we can place a cache somewhere and let it go "until there's an issue". That's backwards. And wrong. And in most cases illegal.

Sorry, but not buying into the argument that failed training of policies relevant to performing ones job is not the issue here, and that under some perverse leap of logic that Reviewers and Grounspeak are somehow to blame. Truly unbelievable!

To blame? Not at all what I'm saying.

 

What I'm saying is that we are playing a game that is not even on 99% of Refuge Manager's radars. To them it is a new issue which isn't even a consideration for a compatible activity or use for the lands they manage.

 

To that end, without we the players of our obscure game taking the time to be thorough and working to obtain proper, elevated permissions, we're set up for failure. It isn't in the job description of the visitor center docent or seasonal Park Ranger (this isn't a gun-toting, Law Enforcement Officer Park Ranger, mind you. Those are altogether different, and would be more familiar with CFR and other legal/regulatory processes for something like geocaching...but still aren't the right person to get permission from!) to know what geocaching is, or what the policies are for geocaching. It is their job to know how to interpret the resource, how to help people engage in the education and outreach of the site, etc. Those types of public engagement folks are not going to be well-versed or even knowledgeable at any level (especially in their job requirements or description) about who or how to grant or deny permission for geocaching. And some of them may know or be trained to say, 'I'll have to direct you to our Project Leader...", but others may hear the idea for what geocaching is from a geocacher and think it sounds harmless enough. That employee might not know that something as 'harmless' as a geocache actually needs to be approved at high levels. That employee may only be a low-level public contact person with a patch and name badge, but to the geocacher suffices as "an employee told me it was fine..." (See the example of Target cashier versus asking the actual Store Manager for a serious inquiry.)

 

This also has more applications than just the USFWS and Department of Interior (DOI--includes USFWS, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management, e.g.) examples I have given. The bottom line is that we have the onus to get permission from the appropriate levels of land management, and that Reviewers should also be acutely aware--as Maingray states above they are in his experience--of the levels of permission one must obtain from an neighborhood HOA, city, borough, county, state, or federal land manager.

 

I can tell you that seasonal, temporary workers at a visitor center desk (let alone volunteers) really don't have a firm grasp of the policies and requirements to give permission for playing this abstract, obscure game.

 

Depending on how the geocacher presents the question, it would be very, very easy for a seasonal Park Ranger to think that it is harmless enough. Even then, there are cases where employees may not be familiar enough with the management policies, regulations, and laws which would apply to allowing a geocache on their lands.

 

So yes, I'll give you the fact that all employees of any business, nonprofit, or agency should know the protocols for land or property use. But you can't train and expect that they will apply their lesson learned when approached by a geocacher asking about an obscure game who might not be honest or forthright with how they describe the process. You get a naiive person or someone who isn't clear on protocols, and suddenly we have a problem.

 

Again, the onus is on all of us to get permission at the proper levels for cache placements. And I'm telling you to tell your friends that this means a Special Use Permit or Compatible Use ruling against an existing CCP for all USFWS, many NPS, and some BLM lands from the Manager or Project Leader for the site they have in mind--not a Park Ranger, Biologist, or Visitor Center worker.

Edited by NeverSummer
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But, do Reviewers ask geocachers for the Special Use Permit from the Refuge if that cacher says, "I have permission from the Refuge to place this geocache"? I'd guess that most do not. That geocacher could have received "permission" from someone who is not at all aware of the CFR, CCP, or other issues regarding geocache placement. The person geocachers must talk to is the Refuge Manager, but I'll guess that the Reviewer isn't going to know or check most of the time when they are told via a cache submission that the cache placer "has permission".

 

And this assumption would be wrong. Verifiable permission, especially in areas like that, would be sought.

But I can cite many times where this is, in fact, correct.

 

You should have seen the sweep I had to do for Alaska US Fish and Wildlife Refuges and Native Corporation Lands with our Reviewer. People placed the caches, and Reviewers at that time did not check on permission, so the caches were published, found, and not reported by any geocacher. It wasn't until I started on processes here in Alaska that we found all of those caches in violation of the guidelines for permission and trespass.

 

Then we can look in this forum for the example where an HOA was not contacted for permission, the cache was published under the assumption that proper permission was granted, there were "No Trespassing" signs up, and yet everyone took the CO's word for it that the cache was placed with permission--on someone's private property, not even the HOA!

 

So, we can see many old and recent examples where it is still important for everyone to consider permission and what that actually means for specific land management locations such as HOA, city, borough, county, state, and federal lands.

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The alternative is to have a clear policy on geocaching posted on the website for the area, or in public areas. Doesn't leave much room for guessing if there's adequate communication.

 

There is a section that addresses this issue. It isn't 100% inclusive but it is a good place to look: Land use policies.

And, with policies constantly in flux, this list can be outdated pretty quickly.

 

What I found lacking was a breakdown of lands in the United States being presented from the Federal level on down to States, and then applicable known policies therein. It would be very helpful to see the Federal Lands have their own tier, so that those agency policies (or lack thereof) can be presented as the default to any present or missing state-level federal sites.

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What I'm saying is that we are playing a game that is not even on 99% of Refuge Manager's radars. To them it is a new issue which isn't even a consideration for a compatible activity or use for the lands they manage.

 

At this point, your posts do not appear to be increasing my admiration of the USFWS or the Managers of those lands that are charged with protecting and preserving, so I'll bow out.

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What I'm saying is that we are playing a game that is not even on 99% of Refuge Manager's radars. To them it is a new issue which isn't even a consideration for a compatible activity or use for the lands they manage.

 

At this point, your posts do not appear to be increasing my admiration of the USFWS or the Managers of those lands that are charged with protecting and preserving, so I'll bow out.

I'm confused.

 

Isn't it a good thing that the Managers of these federal lands are not allowing geocaching without proper review against the founding documents for each individual Refuge, Wetland Management Area, or Waterfowl Production Area?

 

What Managers do is default to not allowing any activity without first reviewing it against the CCP for that Refuge, checking against the founding documents, and making a call about appropriate and compatible uses for that land. This is what happens for hiking, biking, walking, hunting, running. skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, landing aircraft, geocaching, mushroom picking, photography, movie filming, etc etc etc.

 

It's no different for geocaching than it is for any other use. They all have to be addressed against the proper documents. If you want that to change, you'll need to write your congresspersons to get it changed, as it is founded in Acts of Congress going waaaaay back. These public lands are managed in a specific way for specific uses, and Managers do their best to keep up with emerging activities (mountain biking, parkour, orienteering, or geocaching, e.g.) and apply the same process to each.

 

And believe me, I've been working for over 3 years on getting this game onto the full radar of the USFWS so that it could be addressed at the top-down, instead of relying on unfamiliar Managers to make a call without any deeper understanding about the game. As I said in another thread, most Managers are not geocachers (shocking!). They are also, therefore, unfamiliar with the game at all. Those who know of the game only know from 2000-2003 era, where the conversation was firmly rooted in the "geocaches are buried, so we don't allow them" discussion; that opinion still lingers widely.

 

There are a handful of Friends groups or other volunteers (and some employees) who have brought geocaching to Refuges in compatible and approved fashion. So, to that end, it really is up to all of us as geocachers to work with our local Refuges to help them learn how geocaching can be a compatible use in some cases.

 

But, because of how some Refuges were designated, it will be impossible to allow the activity at all (and other activities such as hiking, biking, or whatever). So, that's where the top-down on Geocaching from the USFWS still comes back to the "The placement of any object on a National Wildlife Refuge is a violation of several Federal regulations including the following:

16USC668dd, 50CFR 27.93, Abandonment of Property

16USC668dd, 50 CFR26.21a, Trespass

16USC668dd 50CFR 27.63 Search for and removal of other valued objects

16USC668dd 50 CFR 27.97 Private Operations

Other violations of federal law may apply."

Edited by NeverSummer
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If I walk into a Ranger station/Visitor Center and ask about placing a geocache and the person behind the desk tells me to go ahead, I would assume I have permission. To me, as a geocacher, I wouldn't think that a higher authority would need to be contacted. As far as I know, or care, the Ranger I spoke with had all the authority needed to either grant permission or to pass the request along to someone who does.

And this assumption would be wrong.

 

If you want to place a cache at your local Target, do you take the 15-year-old cashier's word for it, or do you ask to speak with the Manager? It should be no different with land managers and requests for permission on their lands.

 

I have no problem being wrong in my assumption but how are you going to fix that? I'd say it's pretty common for cachers to believe that rangers working at the gate or visitor center would have the authority to grant permission for hiding a geocache or at least have the knowledge of who to ask if they cannot. You say that's incorrect and geocachers should treat it like a trip to Target and assume the ranger is no better than a high schooler with no authority. Yes, I would not ask a teen working the register at Target for much of anything or assume that they have any kind of authority. A park ranger, on the other hand, I've always viewed as someone in a position of power. I guess I was wrong about that but I hardly believe I'm the only person who feels that way. As I said, most people are going to walk into a ranger station believing they're speaking to someone who can grant permission. The onus is on the land manager to create a policy to direct all geocache hiding inquiries to (name) rather than get mad at the geocacher for not following some invisible power tree.

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If I walk into a Ranger station/Visitor Center and ask about placing a geocache and the person behind the desk tells me to go ahead, I would assume I have permission. To me, as a geocacher, I wouldn't think that a higher authority would need to be contacted. As far as I know, or care, the Ranger I spoke with had all the authority needed to either grant permission or to pass the request along to someone who does.

And this assumption would be wrong.

 

If you want to place a cache at your local Target, do you take the 15-year-old cashier's word for it, or do you ask to speak with the Manager? It should be no different with land managers and requests for permission on their lands.

 

I have no problem being wrong in my assumption but how are you going to fix that? I'd say it's pretty common for cachers to believe that rangers working at the gate or visitor center would have the authority to grant permission for hiding a geocache or at least have the knowledge of who to ask if they cannot. You say that's incorrect and geocachers should treat it like a trip to Target and assume the ranger is no better than a high schooler with no authority. Yes, I would not ask a teen working the register at Target for much of anything or assume that they have any kind of authority. A park ranger, on the other hand, I've always viewed as someone in a position of power. I guess I was wrong about that but I hardly believe I'm the only person who feels that way. As I said, most people are going to walk into a ranger station believing they're speaking to someone who can grant permission. The onus is on the land manager to create a policy to direct all geocache hiding inquiries to (name) rather than get mad at the geocacher for not following some invisible power tree.

It's not invisible; I'm letting you know the process.

 

There is nuance here, and there is something to be said about the scale of change folks are asking for.

 

There are Park Rangers with a law enforcement (LE) credential, and Park Rangers who are hired to do interpretation of the resources. The LE Park Ranger is easily identifiable by the gun on their hip, badge on their vest, and so on. Most Americans think of a "Park Ranger" as someone who has authority, yes. But that authority is derived from different places. A federal employee has general authority of the scope of their job, but enforcement comes from that LE officer. This is the disconnect.

 

Then we can add in discussion about uniformed employees, and the perception of authority when in uniform. We all take an oath when we take a federal job, including payroll clerks, janitors, interpretive Park Rangers, Refuge Managers, and the Director of the USFWS. So, when we're in uniform (and out), we're supposed to be adhering to the Constitution, federal law, and standards. We could claim that everyone would have an equal understanding of all of the laws and regulations the federal government has for Department of Interior lands, but we don't. Biologists know their realm, Administration theirs, Visitor Services theirs, etc. We all hope that Johnny Q Uniformedguy knows to tell an inquisitive geocacher to talk to the Refuge Manager about such requests, but not everyone in the thousands of our employees (especially the seasonal or temporary employees) has the same grasp on what they need to ask of whom and when.

 

Those who have the knowledge of specific management for a specific Refuge, Park, or other managed land falls to Refuge Management. That knowledge also comes with the authority to make decisions about how that site carries out the mission assigned to it within that specific site's founding documents. That might mean a Refuge was founded to give overwintering habitat for ducks, breeding habitat for seabirds, protected enclosure for an endangered species, etc. The decisions that are made for each Refuge come down to the Manager's decisions about how to best carry out the specific mission for that site.

 

Each Refuge has a specific Comprehensive Conservation Plan. "Acomprehensive conservation plan (CCP) describes the desired future conditions of a refuge or planning unit; provides long-range guidance and management direction to achieve the purposes of the refuge; helps fulfill the mission of the Refuge System; maintains and, where appropriate, restores the ecological integrity of each refuge and the Refuge System; helps achieve the goals of the National Wilderness Preservation System; and meets other mandates. The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Pub. L. 105–57) mandates that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service write CCPs for all national wildlife refuges and reevaluate them every 15 years or as needed. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) mandates that we develop either an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement in the CCP. This planning process provides a unique opportunity for the Service to involve individuals and local communities in the long-term management of refuges." If geocachers want to get involved in the process, it is when a Refuge scopes a new CCP that we should get in touch.

 

If a Refuge is using an established CCP, the options for geocachers include talking directly to Refuge Management about options for geocaching, and/or applying for a Special Use Permit. In some very rare cases, a Refuge might already have geocaching within their CCP. The only way to know if it is an allowed activity is to ask Refuge Management first. If it is not, that is when you discuss options for geocaching including an SUP.

 

If we all go into this situation clawing for "Yes!" as the answer we're after, we are more likely to present and push things in a way that will be favorable to our desired outcome. Meaning, we might leave things out, push the wrong person, or woo the low-level Johnny Q Uniformedguy to say it's ok when they don't have the authority to say so on behalf of the Refuge.

 

This is where we need to step away from the hyperventilating and bloviation about federal red tape or bureaucracy, and realize that the USFWS has a policy for geocaching already: They are not allowed.

"The placement of any object on a National Wildlife Refuge is a violation of several Federal regulations including the following:

16USC668dd, 50CFR 27.93, Abandonment of Property

16USC668dd, 50 CFR26.21a, Trespass

16USC668dd 50CFR 27.63 Search for and removal of other valued objects

16USC668dd 50 CFR 27.97 Private Operations

Other violations of federal law may apply."

 

However, if we all do our due diligence, there are opportunities to work with federal agencies to test geocaching, partner with events, and even create the option to place geocaches with the full knowledge of the Agency. This is via involvement in the local Friends of National Wildlife Refuges group (see if your local geocaching organization wants to send a board member to participate on the Friends' board!), discussions with the Refuge Management, and a growing understanding of how to best fit our activities into the complexity of Federal land management and resource conservation (sometimes it just isn't a good fit, you see...).

 

Because the overarching policy on geocaching is that it isn't allowed, most Managers don't pay it any mind--they just assume it's a NO option. It isn't until the public gets involved in the scoping process for a CCP that geocaching can be assessed as a possible compatible use. The other option is to ask for a Special Use Permit. But the best way, by far, to get on their radar is to get involved in supporting your local Refuges. Become a Friends member. Volunteer. Go to events. Get to know the staff. Work with them to see if there is a way to add geocaching to their repertoire of outreach actions (Earthcaches, and WhereIGos with a final off Refuge lands are great options to consider first, well before physical geocaches on Refuge are considered).

 

So, yes. We as geocachers have the onus of action regarding geocaching and the USFWS. It is up to us to do the leg work and ask the correct person about permission to geocache there. Our only other option is to resign ourselves to the fact that the USFWS does not allow geocaching on Refuge, Wetland Management Area, Waterfowl Production Area, or other USFWS property or lands. Period.

 

What I'm trying to do is let you know what our options are to work with the USFWS to play this obscure game.

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