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Geocaching On National Wildlife Refuges

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Groundspeak received the following email from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Refuge Law Enforcement:

 

Original Message Follows:

------------------------

From: (name withheld)

Subject: GeoCaching on National Wildlife Refuges

Date: Thu, 13 Nov 2003 07:41:06 -0500

 

This email will serve as notice to your organization regarding geocaching on federal lands, specifically lands owned or leased by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  This office has received information that individuals associated with the act of geocaching have been placing and searching for caches on National Wildlife Refuges throughout the United States.

 

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.

 

The maximum penalty for each specific violation per person is up to $5000.00 and or 6 months in jail.  The maximum penalty for a corporation involved in the violation is up to $100,000.00 and or 1year in jail per offense.

 

In addressing your website you identify the National Park Service as an area which is not approved for your activity.  The National Park Service adjoins the US Fish and Wildlife Service within the Department of the Interior and has similar restrictions as to geocaching.  This communication will serve as notice to your organization that the activity known as geocaching is not permitted on National Wildlife Refuges and is a violation of Federal law.  Federal Officers have begun prosecuting individuals

involved in geocaching on National Wildlife Refuges which results in a permanent Federal criminal record following conviction in a Federal court. In the interest of protecting individuals who are being mislead by erroneous information I strongly suggest you update your website to reflect the US Fish and Wildlife Service owned and leased lands as areas not to be used for geocaching.

 

Law Enforcement Specialist (name withheld)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Office of Refuge Law Enforcement

4401 N.Fairfax Drive

Arlington, Va 22203

Ph- (number withheld)

 

Here is our response (note: when we receive additional contact information from them or permission to post the specialist's name and number, we will post it here):

 

Dear Mr. (name withheld),

 

This note will acknowledge receipt of your email notice.

 

Although we believe that your harsh and threatening tone is unnecessary considering our historically consistent willingness to work with landowners and land management agencies, we recognize that as a new activity we rarely receive the same consideration as other more established activities.

 

Nevertheless, thank you for alerting us that US Fish and Wildlife Service owned and leased lands are not to be used for geocaching.  We will make our membership aware of the restriction and possible penalties by posting the content of your email in our discussion forums and on the cache placement guidelines.

 

Since some people will likely have questions regarding this policy, can you please provide us with appropriate contact information for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Refuge Law Enforcement that can be used by geocachers to have their questions addressed?

 

Additionally, virtual caching is a form of geocaching in which no physical object is placed or left at the location.  Assuming no trespass is involved in geocachers visiting the coordinates and answering questions based on the location, and assuming that no other Federal Regulations are being violated, we will continue allowing geocachers to post the coordinates of virtual caches on our Website for others to seek. 

 

Since there is no purpose in attempting to debate the merits of geocaching, we will suggest to our community that they address this and other related issues through the proper political means. 

 

Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything else that we can do to assist the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

Happy Geocaching!

 

Sincerely,

 

Bryan Roth

Groundspeak Inc.

www.geocaching.com

 

We have made the change to the cache listing guidelines to reflect the USFWS policy change. Going forward no physical caches will be approved on lands managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Virtual caches that meet guidelines will still be approved, as long as they are placed in areas open to the public. If you would like to email Groundspeak on this issue please send your email to contact@Groundspeak.com.

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That's a lot of words. What does that mean? What lands do they manage? Are the National Forests still open?

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The UFWS letter sounds like it was written by a robot. I guess that is not surprising though when it comes from a federal bureaucracy.

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Are the National Forests still open?

 

I don't think the UFWS can speak for the National Forest Service. They are all separate agencies.

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Ok, so who exactly at the Fish & Wildlife Serivce do we contact? Preferably someone with an e-mail address. They can ignore sanil mail, but when their e-mail box fills up thats a lot harder. Also I would reccomend that someoe create and post some sort of a form letter to e-mail. So we don't have to worry bout people sending letters ranting about public lands or other stuff, so we appear rational.

 

I haven't had a chance to find the exact explanation of each regulation we are in violation of but some of them are conflicting/confusing

16USC668dd, 50CFR 27.93, Abandonment of Property - Its not abandonded

16USC668dd, 50 CFR26.21a, Trespass - Yah, what about everyone else who goes there

16USC668dd 50CFR 27.63 Search for and removal of other valued objects - Stuff from a dollar store is a "valued object"?!

16USC668dd 50 CFR 27.97 Private Operations - I assume they think somone is profiting from this.

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Also I would reccomend that someoe create and post some sort of a form letter to e-mail. So we don't have to worry bout people sending letters ranting about public lands or other stuff, so we appear rational.

Exactly! Howzabout someone with a good grasp of legalese drafting up a nice letter. :P

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Ok here is the person to send the e-mails to, now if someone can just write a nice professionally sounding letter and post that would be good step to take.

 

I'm cruising their website now, as soon as I can find the regualtions we are in violation of I'll post them

 

Chief of Public Affairs:

Jeffrey_M_Fleming

E-mail: Jeffrey_M_Fleming@fws.gov

Phone: (202) 208-4131

Fax: (202) 219-2428

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Fortunately, I only have two geocaches within National Wildlife Refuges. Unfortunately, one of them is the infamous ''Quest For the White Buffalo'' The other is''Hey Morgan! Look'' . I'm in the process of archiving and removing both. White Buffalo will be most likely resurrected sometime in the future somewhere else. I will no longer be placing geocaches in NWRs as I have done. I will no longer be hunting geocaches in NWRs as I have done. I will no longer be carrying trash out of NWRs (they might consider that ''valued property too!'') as I have done. I will no longer be helping them in maintaining and reclearing trails on NWRs as I have done. I will no longer be reporting fires on NWRs that I spot as I have done.

 

I do not blame the individual NWR Rangers. I'm sure this ruling came from their High level bureaucrats who probably haven't even stepped foot in their nearest NWR in six months. I guess this means the local NWR rangers here will have to quit geocaching on NWRs themselves so they can spend their time arresting us.

 

Meanwhile, what should we do about caches that were hidden on NWRs by folks who are no longer active or have moved away?

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Ok, here are the regulations and the website I found them on. Hope somone is writing a letter or is their one on one of the other threads? MARKWELL anyone?

 

16USC668dd, 50CFR 27.93, Abandonment of Property Abandoning, discarding, or otherwise leaving any personal property in any national wildlife refuge is prohibited.

 

16USC668dd, 50 CFR26.21a, Trespass - (a) No person shall trespass, including but not limited to entering, occupying, using, or being upon, any national wildlife refuge, except as specifically authorized in this subchapter C or in other applicable Federal regulations.

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

(a) No person shall search for buried treasure, treasure trove, valuable semi-precious rocks, stones, or mineral specimens on national wildlife refuges unless authorized by permit or by provision of this subchapter C.

16USC668dd 50 CFR 27.97 Private Operations - Sec. 27.97 Private operations.

Soliciting business or conducting a commercial enterprise on any national wildlife refuge is prohibited except as may be authorized by special permit.

 

http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx...50cfrv2_02.html

Edited by magellan315

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Everyone should write their own letters, form letters look like, well, form letters. Here's mine:

 

Dear Mr. Flemming,

 

I read today a very disturbing letter from your organization regarding geocaching on National Wildlife Refuge managed lands. As a retired USAF member I was shocked that someone in the public service would send such a disrespectful and inaccurate letter to a citizen. I would like to chalk it up to misunderstanding or misinformation about the geocaching activity. I would encourage you and every member of your organization to educate yourselves on the subject before threatening anyone. The Federal Regulations cited have nothing to do with the issue, and I will address the misconceptions one at a time.

 

1. Abandoned property rules do not apply as no property is ever abandoned. Each geocache is maintained by the person who placed it, and monitored by each successive finder. Further, if said person were to ever abandon a cache for any reason, it would be promptly retrieved by another player. I have retrieved two such geocaches.

2. Trespass? Are these public lands? Geocaches are never allowed on lands where it would require a finder to trespass to get to it. If any other activity is allowed, then geocaching should fall under those guidelines.

3. Search for and removal of valued objects relates to the removal of items such as musket balls or minerals, not the playing of a game. The absurdity of such a statement is stunning.

4. Private operations? The game is available free of charge to anyone. Computers with internet access are available at public libraries for use by the public. The game is, therefore, a very public game.

 

To prosecute an American citizen for geocaching would easily fall under the “waste” provision of the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse program used by all government agencies. Citing the regulations mentioned in the email may also constitute abuse. There are a large number of Veterans playing the game, any of whom can easily exercise their right to request a Congressional Investigation regarding this policy.

 

I encourage you to discover the facts regarding the game of geocaching and construct positive and definite guidelines that support this family friendly game.

 

V/R

 

Christopher L. Caserta

USAF Retired

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That is a fine letter, Criminal! Thank you for sharing it. I also agree that individualized letters have more impact than form letters.

 

Before too many people write to the Chief of Public Affairs contact, please consider waiting for a response to Groundspeak's request for the USF&WS to identify a contact person. It's very likely that the Chief of Public Affairs has never heard of geocaching and knows nothing of the message that was sent.

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Everyone should write their own letters, form letters look like, well, form letters. Here's mine:

 

Dear Mr. Flemming,

 

I read today a very disturbing letter from your organization regarding geocaching on National Wildlife Refuge managed lands. As a retired USAF member I was shocked that someone in the public service would send such a disrespectful and inaccurate letter to a citizen. I would like to chalk it up to misunderstanding or misinformation about the geocaching activity. I would encourage you and every member of your organization to educate yourselves on the subject before threatening anyone. The Federal Regulations cited have nothing to do with the issue, and I will address the misconceptions one at a time.

 

1. Abandoned property rules do not apply as no property is ever abandoned. Each geocache is maintained by the person who placed it, and monitored by each successive finder. Further, if said person were to ever abandon a cache for any reason, it would be promptly retrieved by another player. I have retrieved two such geocaches.

2. Trespass? Are these public lands? Geocaches are never allowed on lands where it would require a finder to trespass to get to it. If any other activity is allowed, then geocaching should fall under those guidelines.

3. Search for and removal of valued objects relates to the removal of items such as musket balls or minerals, not the playing of a game. The absurdity of such a statement is stunning.

4. Private operations? The game is available free of charge to anyone. Computers with internet access are available at public libraries for use by the public. The game is, therefore, a very public game.

 

To prosecute an American citizen for geocaching would easily fall under the “waste” provision of the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse program used by all government agencies. Citing the regulations mentioned in the email may also constitute abuse. There are a large number of Veterans playing the game, any of whom can easily exercise their right to request a Congressional Investigation regarding this policy.

 

I encourage you to discover the facts regarding the game of geocaching and construct positive and definite guidelines that support this family friendly game.

 

V/R

 

Christopher L. Caserta

USAF Retired

Well said!

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otherwise leaving

 

Hmmm...

 

I wonder how many different ways we could define leaving?

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OK, now it's my turn to be flamed.

I agree that there should be no geocaches placed on NWR properties. They are National Wildlife Refuges for a reason -- sensitive ecosystems that have been set aside to protect wildlife that NEEDS protection. There are many places to geocache, and although there are many geocachers who are sensitive to these areas, there are many who are not. Here is my letter to Mr. Flemming:

 

Mr. Flemming,

I have noted on the geocaching forums that FWS has made a decision to ban geocaching on National Wildlife Refuge lands. Also noted was much discussion against this decision.

However, I totally agree with your decision. I have visited NWR lands near me, including Anahuac NWR and especially Aransas NWR. Geocaching on such properties could be quite detrimental. Even if permission is obtained for a geocache at a non-sensitive specific location in the refuge, other geocachers may assume that geocaching is generally permitted in the area, and place other caches without regard to the sensitive areas. I have witnessed this in state parks. Our NWR’s should be protected.

Someone may have contacted you about allowing “virtual” geocaches on NWR properties. Unlike actual physical caches, these caches do not hide anything, but merely require viewing an area. There is no physical damage to an area, and nothing left behind. Further, these virtual caches bring people to an area that they would not have otherwise visited. This type of cache could and would benefit the NWR by making people aware of the work the government is doing to protect our sensitive wildlife ecosystems. I urge you to consider this when making any decisions.

[mbrownjer]

Geocacher since April, 2001

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Crap! I've been eyeing a hydro cache that's on NWR land.

 

Now, not only is it an illegal cache, but I can't visit it without being subject to arrest!

 

~sheesh~ ...and I just bought a jetski to hydro cache in, too.

 

CR

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Criminal's letter is exactly what I was looking for, I can always modfy it to include things like CITO and change some of the phrasing to suit my writing style. I hope everyone takes a moment this weekend to e-mail a copy to:

 

Chief of Public Affairs, US Fish & Wildlife Service:

Jeffrey_M_Fleming

E-mail: Jeffrey_M_Fleming@fws.gov

 

I'd love to se his face when a few hundred turn up, just make sure that not evryone buts the word "geocaching" in the subject line. This way he'll have to read through the ones that don't have an obvious subject line.

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Okay, I guess it's time to convert all our cache to letterboxes then right?

 

"...but, officer, it's not a geocache! It's a letterbox. I haven't heard anything about letterboxes not being allowed!"

 

CR

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Before too many people write to the Chief of Public Affairs contact, please consider waiting for a response to Groundspeak's request for the USF&WS to identify a contact person. It's very likely that the Chief of Public Affairs has never heard of geocaching and knows nothing of the message that was sent.

I agree Keystone, lets wait for the response and send it to the right person where it will do the most good

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Honestly this doesn't surprise me. I was actually more surprised to hear that people were allowed to hide caches on NWR properties. We have been banned from hiding caches at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge since late 2001 when the Comanche Stash and Corkscrew cache were removed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Efforts to restore caching in that area fell on deaf ears.

 

The removal of those caches is what started the Oklahoma Geocachers to organize in Oklahoma City. TAG was created in Tulsa after my visit to one of the OKC meetings. We have established many virtual caches in that area since then. I have enjoyed them greatly. Even the one where we ran face to face with a buffalo that we didn't see. Luckily he left us alone. Although with the virtual cache crackdown creation of new cahces have all but dried up in the area.

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I am going to wait a week and see if we get a response from our e-mail requesting a point of contact. If we get none, Then I will be writing the public affairs office, and I will also be considering writing my Senator and Congressmen. I am a little leary on writing my elected officials as they may end up doing more harm than good. We will have teo wait and see. And I would suggest that everyone send not only an e-mail but a written letter also. Yes, letters can be thrown away and e-mails can be deleted. But if we keep them busy with both, they may be a little more open to discussion. But I think pointing out that virtual caches are still going to be allowed was good, as it is open to the public and taking pictures is not illegal as of yet. But give Congress a couple of weeks and it might be.....

 

:P

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OK, now it's my turn to be flamed.

I agree that there should be no geocaches placed on NWR properties.  They are National Wildlife Refuges for a reason -- sensitive ecosystems that have been set aside to protect wildlife that NEEDS protection.  There are many places to geocache, and although there are many geocachers who are sensitive to these areas, there are many who are not. 

If open hiking is allowed, then banning Geocaching is ludicrous. As long as Geocachers obey posted park rules for hiking, there is no difference between the two activities whatsoever.

 

At the same time Geocachers are banned, bird-watchers are encouraged to tromp around the public land hunting for a red-bellied sap-sucker. It just doesn't make sense. :P

 

If there is that much worry about impact on the environment, then "NO TRESPASSING" signs should be posted every 50 ft around all of these public lands.

 

I sent a similar letter to the Minnesota DNR after they banned Geocaching in state parks. I suggested that they also ban hiking, as hikers do the same activities and have the same impact as Geocachers...

 

-B3fiend

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Ok. I'm willing to wait a week until a point of contact is identifed. About a year ago when I was livining Florida we had a similar state agency(responsible for 500,000 acres) that sent out a similar e-mail threatening Geocachers with similar legal actions. Once we identifed a contact person a reasonable discussion ensued and they ended up allowing Geocaching. The fact that we could remove a cache if it posed a real problem, that caches were not abandoned, and the loved the whole concept of CITO changed their mind. They ended up creating a policy similar to Pensylvania's Department of Conservation & Natural Resources. Once a contact person was identified all of the e-mails were channeled to him. He was able to demonstrate to his superiors that we were very responsible and their were a lot more people involved then they thought.

 

Howevere I am tired of watching state and federal agencies make poorly informed, snap judgements, with letters threating legal action. Once we know who we have to contact at F&W, let the Jihad begin. If the snow mobile lobby can get the policy Yellowstone changed to meet thier needs, so can we.

 

I will now climb down from my soap box.

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16USC668dd, 50CFR 27.93, Abandonment of Property Abandoning, discarding, or otherwise leaving any personal property in any national wildlife refuge is prohibited.

 

16USC668dd, 50 CFR26.21a, Trespass - (a) No person shall trespass, including but not limited to entering, occupying, using, or being upon, any national wildlife refuge, except as specifically authorized in this subchapter C or in other applicable Federal regulations.

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

    (a) No person shall search for buried treasure, treasure trove, valuable semi-precious rocks, stones, or mineral specimens on national wildlife refuges unless authorized by permit or by provision of this subchapter C.

    16USC668dd 50 CFR 27.97 Private Operations - Sec. 27.97  Private operations.

    Soliciting business or conducting a commercial enterprise on any national wildlife refuge is prohibited except as may be authorized by special permit.

 

Seems to reading the letter of the statute, geocaching DOES appear to violate SOME aspects outlined.

 

1) Leaving of personal property.

2) Buried treasure (although caches are NOT buried)

 

Their strongest case IMO lies in number 1, while the hunting of treasure is iffy... IMO, geocaching violate the spirit of what they want to accomplish.

 

The rest of the stuff looks like they are playing dress up to bloster thier case.

 

Personally I think it is a bit of an overkill against the hobby. Virtual caches will take hold in National Parks and they will find this posturing will achieve nothing.

 

Things can get pretty nasty if they decide to sue geocaching.com for facilitating caching (albeit virtual). This also can take a idiotic turn if they try banning the use of GPSr in national parks.

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In these times of tight budgets we must search for places to cut funding. Perhaps an opportunity has presented itself? Money and votes talk. Tackle the issue from both sides and that’s leverage.

 

The time for a lobby has come.

 

adampierson, good assessment.

Edited by Renegade Knight

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This email was brought to Florida's attention through our Admin Crow T Robot. We would like to thank Crow for bringing this to our attention. As President of The Northeast Florida Geocachers Assoc. I immediately got this out to all of our membersand we are currently in the middle of an extensive letter writing, email and fax program. We are inviting all the other organizations of geocachers across the US to step up and help us stop this before it gets started. As I expressed to Jeremy and Heidi in a previous email I think we need to take a stand here and let our Congressman know what geocaching is and what it means to us. This is the prompt response I got from Heidi:

Hi Greg,

 

Your email was forwarded to me to deal with. The only part of Crow T Robot's post that was incorrect is Jeremy's involvement. Bryan and I deal with these issues and we will be attempting to work with them. I have posted a new topic with all of the information. I did not include the name of the person in the post. But his job title and location is included, you can find him easily i bet. :P

 

I did close your topic, but i linked to it in my post. My reason was only to make the official information' easier to find.

 

Good luck to you and the Florida cachers, my hope is all groups take the same professional approach you have taken.

 

Happy Geocaching!

Heidi

-----Original Message-----

We appreciate all of those who have came forward and found emails, fax numbers and appropiate information. We are posting links and adress at cacheflorida.com if anyone is interested in seeing them and I will also try and get what info on USFWS we have and post it to this thread.

Greg Smith

President

Northeast Florida Geocachers Assoc.

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Things can get pretty nasty if they decide to sue geocaching.com for facilitating caching (albeit virtual). This also can take a idiotic turn if they try banning the use of GPSr in national parks.

Actually, the threat of GPS usage being banned could be seen as positive. Consider this, Garmin has just released a new unit that actually has a geocaching mode. GPS manufacturers are beginning to cater to the growing number of customers brought to them by the sport. If lobbying is the way to go, the manufacturers of GPS units might be persuaded to help. After all, the more places there are to cache, the more units they will sell. I'd suggest forwarding a copy of the above letter to Groundspeak to some of the GPS manufacturers, along with the letters you would send to the FWS. They need to be aware of the new regulations, and the possible impact they might have on the sales of their products. Big companies have big connections.

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That's interesting, BC. I saw Garmin had new units coming out but I hadn't looked at the particulars. I agree that GPSr manufactuers (Garmin, Magellan, and even Lowrance) need to have that letter forwarded to them.

 

southdeltan

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I am going to wait a week and see if we get a response from our e-mail requesting a point of contact. If we get none, Then I will be writing the public affairs office, and I will also be considering writing my Senator and Congressmen. I am a little leary on writing my elected officials as they may end up doing more harm than good. We will have teo wait and see. And I would suggest that everyone send not only an e-mail but a written letter also. Yes, letters can be thrown away and e-mails can be deleted. But if we keep them busy with both, they may be a little more open to discussion. But I think pointing out that virtual caches are still going to be allowed was good, as it is open to the public and taking pictures is not illegal as of yet. But give Congress a couple of weeks and it might be.....

 

:P

I would like to point out that congressmen and senators are prohibited from trashing or deleting any correspondence sent to them by their constituants. They must print out the emails and maintain a file of all received correspondence.

 

I know this from previous experience. In trying to get the congressmen and senators vote for malpractice reform in the state of Florida this year, every physician collected signed letters (yes, form letters) from their patients stating their support for the legislation. We jammed their fax machines and telephones for 2 weeks and they could get no other work done and literally begged the state medical society to stop the barrage. The malpractice reform bill was passed a few weeks later.

 

The lesson here is that grassroots efforts can make a difference lead to meaningful change. But it must be focused and sent to the right people.

 

I think its a good idea to draft a letter but not to send it yet. I will leave it up to Jeremy and company to let us know who and when. If many, many people strike simultaneously, it will be noticed and would give us the best oppurtunity to make a meaningful change.

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Actually, the threat of GPS usage being banned could be seen as positive. Consider this, Garmin has just released a new unit that actually has a geocaching mode. GPS manufacturers are beginning to cater to the growing number of customers brought to them by the sport.

 

Sorry I fail to see how the banning the use of GPS can be a good thing. Although it may drag the GPS companies into the fray, this is something they should already be looking into and lobbying for. Garmin's (IMO) newer units are more geocache friendly (layout of screens, icon, etc.)... I figure they would step up and say someting. Does anyone really know if GPS companies doing any lobbying?

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OK, now it's my turn to be flamed.

I agree that there should be no geocaches placed on NWR properties. They are National Wildlife Refuges for a reason -- sensitive ecosystems that have been set aside to protect wildlife that NEEDS protection

This position might make sense if not for all the activities that ARE allowed on these lands. HUNTING for instance.

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By the by, looking at magellan315's link has been very informative.

 

I have to agree with their assessment of violations to the Abandoned Property ("...or otherwise leaving any personal property...") and Trespass ("...[no entry] except as specifically authorized by subchapter C [which geocaching doesn't currently fall under especially since we've been notified]...") and if the cache is listed here, then Private Operations ("...conducting a commercial enterprise...") may be a bit of a stretch...but not by much.

 

The one that does not truly fit is Search and Removal of Valued Objects (especially if it's been there for more than 6 months and is full of McToys and used lottery tickets... :) ). But more to the fact that a geocache does not fall under any of the specific categories that would make it a valued object:

 

buried treasure, treasure trove, valuable semi-precious rocks, stones, or mineral specimens

 

While I'm sure they threw it in to add weight to their complaint, a geocache is not buried, and even if it did contain any stones/minerals they were brought in, not removed. So I looked up the legal definition of a treasure trove (because I thought that is probably what they read and applied to a geocache). Unfortunately for them, the legal definition requires that it be money/coin/precious metal and found by accident. An example would be if a prospector hid his gold and you stumbled over it...you would have found a treasure trove. The fact that the contents of a geocache are mostly non-valuable/non-precious and not usually found unintentionally means they are not a treasure trove.

 

This is all minutia and moot since they still have perfectly valid complaints on 2, maybe 3, of the other subsections of US Code.

 

So, solution time:

 

Well, Private Operations are allowed by special permit (something we've already established with state systems across the nation). Also, Trespass would go away if the activity were recognized as a compatible use (see my other recent post) and this is certainly what we need to justify to the appropriate person who can make the decision to permit geocaching as another compatible use. Finally, the biggest obstacle I see is "Abandoned Property", simply because nothing in that subsection says "unless allowed" or in any way currently provides an "other" like most subsections I've read. IIRC, we would need Congress to change that little bit of US Code to allow for "leaving private property in special permit instances"....or at the very least something to say that it would never be enforced upon us as part of our special permit, etc.

 

BTW, virtual caching can never be stricken from NWR areas, simply because sightseeing is specifically stated in the exceptions to trespass hard-wired into the US Code.

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Of course we all know how silly this policy is. If other activities are allowed there is no reason not to allow Geocaching. But like anything else that one does not understand it is just easier to say no than to actually have to think.

 

I am not sure why the name was withheld. It is a letter from a government official acting in that capacity that used government resources. I think it falls in the public domain. There is no need to hide or protect that person’s identity.

 

It is very obvious that all of the laws cited do not apply. What is really needed is a test case. Let’s have a cache on NWR property and have the case tried in court. I would like to see the federal government explain how Geocaching is more harmful to the lands than hiking, bird watching or hunting. As far as I am concerned their only duty is to protect the land that has been placed under their control. I really don’t see any court taking their side on this. Through our history many of the changes we have seen have come about by civil disobedience. Blacks in this country had to ride on the back of the bus until some stood up and got arrested. The courts then made their decision.

 

My guess is that the only thing that comes close to be a valid point is the one about private operations. That only becomes an argument to form a nonprofit umbrella organization for Geocaching. GC.com is a for profit business. Again instead of just caving in and allowing a letter from some government official dictate to gc.com what they can do on their website, just say no. For some reason it is felt that by cooperating with these people it will help the cause of Geocaching. Yes that has been very effective to date. It has only allowed for more areas to be closed to our use. Agencies have figured out that all they need to do is write a letter of groundless threats and Geocaching stops. Man if all the rest of society reacted that way I would hate to see the letters coming out of such groups like the IRS, FBI, BATF (fill in your acronym here).

 

I have been disappointed by the historical lack of support from GPSr manufacturers. How many of us would own one today if not for geocaching? It is likely they will not get involved until they are sued. Something like gun makers being sued for people that were murdered by their products. Yea those are all silly lawsuits but you can see where this could go.

 

There was one interesting point and one funny point I saw in the letter from the mindless bureaucrat. They said that “Federal Officers have begun prosecuting individuals involved in geocaching on National Wildlife Refuges”. Who? Does anybody know anyone that has been prosecuted? I have to think we would have heard about that by now. The funny part is about the jail time and the permanent Federal criminal record. I have not heard my permanent record talked about since high school. I can picture the scene in the jail cell now:

 

“So what are you in for?”

“Doing 3 to 5 on a geocaching charge. With 2 years suspended on the GPSr thing.”

The murders and rapists slowly move away from this vile and scary individual.

 

Oh no that can’t happen they rarely put murders and rapists in jail anymore.

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Someone may have contacted you about allowing “virtual” geocaches on NWR properties. Unlike actual physical caches, these caches do not hide anything, but merely require viewing an area. There is no physical damage to an area, and nothing left behind. Further, these virtual caches bring people to an area that they would not have otherwise visited. This type of cache could and would benefit the NWR by making people aware of the work the government is doing to protect our sensitive wildlife ecosystems. I urge you to consider this when making any decisions.

 

So someone walking through a "sensitive area" to find a virtual cache causes less damage than the same person looking for a real cache?

 

A virtual cache in a "sensitive area" will have less impact than a real cache in the same area?

 

Interesting how that happens. Can you please explain? Do the plants and animals in the area know that the seeker is looking for a virtual, rather than a real cache?

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In michigan there is a long hiking trail in a state park Waterloo-Pinckney Recreation area. On this long trail, there are signs posted in one area, saying that you cannot leave the trail into the national wildlife refuse area.

 

There are a couple parks here in SE Michigan where ive noticed in the past 30 years, fewer Plants and Animal Species are left. Even the wildlife area in Kensington Metro Park in SE Michigan has lost alot of variety of species in the last few decades.

 

There is a large park in Livonia Michigan that had a variety of Plants and animals, and the park has largly been stripped out by people in the last 30 years, taking plants, or shooting the pheasants(these birds made alot of noise). This park had been much larger, but had been chewed down in size by housing developements.

 

Rotary Tree Cache

 

Kensington MetroPark Disc Golf Cache

 

------------------------------------------------------

 

What they probably are saying, is that you cannot leave the trails into these sensitive areas.

 

I would need a hot air balloon, and a camera with telephoto lenses to view these areas.

Edited by GOT GPS?

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So someone walking through a "sensitive area" to find a virtual cache causes less damage than the same person looking for a real cache?

 

A virtual cache in a "sensitive area" will have less impact than a real cache in the same area?

 

Interesting how that happens. Can you please explain? Do the plants and animals in the area know that the seeker is looking for a virtual, rather than a real cache?

 

A virtual cache can be done from an already established walking trail or parking lot. A traditional cache is usually placed 50 to 100 yards off a walking trail. So to accomplish a virtual cache, all one has to do is stay on the already established trail or parking area, snap a picture so that you have a record of the event and leave. No leaving the trail, no trampling down of endangered mosquito habitats, no tracking of trash in the woods and so on. :)

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A virtual cache can be done from an already established walking trail or parking lot. A traditional cache is usually placed 50 to 100 yards off a walking trail. So to accomplish a virtual cache, all one has to do is stay on the already established trail or parking area, snap a picture so that you have a record of the event and leave. No leaving the trail, no trampling down of endangered mosquito habitats, no tracking of trash in the woods and so on

 

They can be, but not all are. I found virtuals that reqired that I go off trail to find them, including one that involved climbing a remote peak in a wilderness area and bushwacking several hundred yards through dense undergrowth. Real caches can also be placed along established trails and in parking lots. I know. I've found dozens.

 

My point is that the person who was trashing the idea of real caches in NWR's and promoting virtuals is using flawed reasoning.

Edited by briansnat

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OK, now it's my turn to be flamed.

I agree that there should be no geocaches placed on NWR properties.  They are National Wildlife Refuges for a reason -- sensitive ecosystems that have been set aside to protect wildlife that NEEDS protection

This position might make sense if not for all the activities that ARE allowed on these lands. HUNTING for instance.

Hunting is allowed in such areas as a contol on particular wildlife populations, in part because of the eradication of natural predators. It is necessary to preserve a more natural balance of wildlife in the area. (Thus furthering the purpose of the NWR.)

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A virtual cache can be done from an already established walking trail or parking lot. A traditional cache is usually placed 50 to 100 yards off a walking trail. So to accomplish a virtual cache, all one has to do is stay on the already established trail or parking area, snap a picture so that you have a record of the event and leave. No leaving the trail, no trampling down of endangered mosquito habitats, no tracking of trash in the woods and so on

 

They can be, but not all are. I found a virtual that reqired I climb a mountain and bushwack several hundred yards through dense undergrowth. Real caches can also be placed along established trails and in parking lots. I know. I've found dozens.

 

My point is that the person who was trashing the idea of real caches in NWR's and promoting virtuals is using flawed reasoning.

Mea culpa. Virtuals can be as damaging as other caches. Your "bushwaking" for virtuals shows that either kind of geocaching has the potential to be damaging to an area.

 

That does not negate the reasoning behind the stance against real caches in the NWRs. It only goes to prove it.

 

I totally understand that there are many locations, even in a NWR, where caches can be placed without any damage whatsoever. The problem comes when the next geocacher assumes that because there is already a cache in the area, that geocaching is acceptable as a rule. They then place another cache in a place that might not be acceptable. I've seen it happen. I've also seen caches that are right on a trail (as stated in the cache page), but the person searching decides to B-line it to the cache instead.

 

Most cachers I believe are sensitive to these issues. But not all. Therein lies the problem.

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Here is a link where you can search for NWRs:

 

National Wildlife Refuges

 

My first reaction to this topic was (like most of the other posters) to become defensive. However, there are only a handful of NWR in my state (Virginia). All are clearly for the protection of wildlife, in sensitive areas. Perhaps the ratio is significantly different in other states;l I haven't checked them all yet.

 

Even though I think geocaching would have minimal negative effects on the area (and quite possibly positive effects from CITO activity), I don't think this ban is necessarily a bad thing. I do find the tone of the original letter from the government to be quite offensive, but it's hard to interpret tone in an e-mail.

 

Personally, I would rather see geocaching allowed in National Parks. Banning it in NWRs will have much less effect on us I think. Though I guess we do need to be concerned about the slippery slope.

 

-BeachBuddies

Edited by BeachBuddies

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Mea culpa. Virtuals can be as damaging as other caches. Your "bushwaking" for virtuals shows that either kind of geocaching has the potential to be damaging to an area.

 

 

Where does this nonsense come from? Why is it always assumed that bushwhacking will damage the forest? I think you should run out right now and KILL every animal the has legs and refuses to use the trail system. I guess it's easier to spout that kind of BS than it is to engage any brain cells and really think.

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First of all, I see no indication that the Geocaching ban was initiated due to any specific concern for "protecting sensitive areas". Geocaching has no greater impact than any of the other activities that ARE allowed.

 

Secondly, a careful reading of the stated requlations shows that none clearly applies to Geocaching. The "Abandonment of Property" reg could be interpreted as to apply to a physical cache (though not a virtual). While it's certainly not "abandoning" or "discarding", the "otherwise leaving" seems broad enough to include it but vague enough that it could be interpreted to not apply.

 

Also, If there are specific legal prohibitions to our activities, someone certainly has the power to make exceptions. The only way we will determine this is to get these folks to discuss it. Contacting the politicians will motivate them to do so.

 

Furthermore, while certain areas may not have any NWR land nearby, this ban will come home to roost someday. For example, it appears that the ban in National Park Service land is based on the same dubious bureaucratic regs. Persuing this may lead to some flexibility on that. Also, standing up to the USFWS at this point, will give the next bureaucrat pause before making the same kind of ruling. Yesterday it was NPS land, today it's NWR land, tommorrow it could be National Forests or BLM land. The contacts we make and the things that we learn in this effort will only help us the next time around. Whether it be local, state or national lands involved.

 

Finally, this is OUR land. We are paying these people to manage it. It's not theirs. If they are going to run us off, let's at least force them to explain themselves and examine their decision. Don't let them hide behind regs written in Bureaucratese. Lets fore them to try to work with us to find a way to allow Geocaching in these areas.

Edited by IceCreamMan

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Mea culpa. Virtuals can be as damaging as other caches. Your "bushwaking" for virtuals shows that either kind of geocaching has the potential to be damaging to an area.

 

You're assuming that bushwacking damages an area. Nearly every one of my caches requires buswacking and I challenge any one to find any real damage surrounding my caches. And I'm not talking about a broken twig.

 

Are there areas where it's inappropriate to place a cache? Sure. But I'm sure the vast majority of caches out there have little, or no real impact on the area. I've yet to find one, and believe me I look.

Edited by briansnat

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Here is the text of a letter I wrote to my congressman and senators for those who'd like some help with composition. Most importantly, keep in nice and keep it simple

-------------------------------------------

I am an avid participant in the sport of Geocaching. In this sport, a person hides a container and then posts the coordinates on a Web page. Others then to try to find the container using a Global Positioning System (GPS) device. As such, the sport often involves hiking on land controlled by various government agencies.

 

It has come to my attention that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has recently banned our activities from the land that they manage. Not only have they banned our activities, they have refused to explain or discuss the matter with representatives of our sport who have approached them.

 

Our sport is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. It is a way for individuals, families and friends to get outdoors and enjoy the many areas of this wonderful country that they might not otherwise take the opportunity to explore. As a group, we take great pride in our concern and care for the areas to which our sport takes us. One of our mottos is, “Cache in, Trash Out.“ There are often events sponsored at parks to help with picking up the refuse which others have left behind. Not to mention the payment of park fees which, in this time of fiscal crisis, can only be welcomed. There are many other reasons these citizens should be welcomed on lands that are set aside for all to enjoy.

 

Our sport has established organizations that have worked with local, state and federal government entities to establish guidelines for our activities on government controlled lands. We would love the opportunity to establish such discussions with the USFWS.

 

I urge you to look into this matter and at least ask that the USFWS explain their decision and discuss it with representatives of our sport. The National Park Service has a similar ban of long standing and I urge you to look into that as well.

 

If you would like more information on our sport, it can be found at www.geocaching.com and at http://home.earthlink.net/~nefga/ .

 

Thank you for your help and attention.

-------------------------------------------------

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BLM land, National Forests etc. are our land.

 

The question remains as to how to fight this "regulation" without disallowing us geochachers and other users of National Lands. Pretty soon PETA and any other tree hugging, sandal wearing, continuous education college person, attacks us and forbids us from using OUR lands.

 

I use MY public lands for hunting upland birds, big game hunting and camping. I do not think that I should be restrained from enjoying another activity, such as geocaching, on MY land.

 

In National Wildlife Refuges, I will concede the point of regulation, but BLM land or any other land that allows, and not regulates the use of, said land, should be open for geocaching. For example, a hunter is allowed to hunt the type of game they desire, as long as they have the appropriate permit, without permission from the federal government. How is geocaching different from "HUNTING" on said land?

 

Please, no OT on hunting!!!

 

I am as frustrated as the next geocacher. I will be contacting my local Representatives in Washington D(Do not bother me) C(Consider your opinions irrelevant) soon. The last letter I wrote to them was returned with a rubber stamp answer.

Edited by Cooter13

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Hunting is allowed in such areas as a contol on particular wildlife populations, in part because of the eradication of natural predators. It is necessary to preserve a more natural balance of wildlife in the area. (Thus furthering the purpose of the NWR.)

Natural balance of wildlife would INCLUDE having predators around. Eradicating the predators is anything but natural.

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Here is the text of a letter I wrote to my congressman and senators for those who'd like some help with composition. Most importantly, keep in nice and keep it simple

-------------------------------------------

I am an avid participant in the sport of Geocaching. In this sport, a person hides a container and then posts the coordinates on a Web page. Others then to try to find the container using a Global Positioning System (GPS) device. As such, the sport often involves hiking on land controlled by various government agencies.

 

It has come to my attention that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has recently banned our activities from the land that they manage. Not only have they banned our activities, they have refused to explain or discuss the matter with representatives of our sport who have approached them.

 

Our sport is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. It is a way for individuals, families and friends to get outdoors and enjoy the many areas of this wonderful country that they might not otherwise take the opportunity to explore. As a group, we take great pride in our concern and care for the areas to which our sport takes us. One of our mottos is, “Cache in, Trash Out.“ There are often events sponsored at parks to help with picking up the refuse which others have left behind. Not to mention the payment of park fees which, in this time of fiscal crisis, can only be welcomed. There are many other reasons these citizens should be welcomed on lands that are set aside for all to enjoy.

 

Our sport has established organizations that have worked with local, state and federal government entities to establish guidelines for our activities on government controlled lands. We would love the opportunity to establish such discussions with the USFWS.

 

I urge you to look into this matter and at least ask that the USFWS explain their decision and discuss it with representatives of our sport. The National Park Service has a similar ban of long standing and I urge you to look into that as well.

 

If you would like more information on our sport, it can be found at www.geocaching.com and at http://home.earthlink.net/~nefga/ .

 

Thank you for your help and attention.

-------------------------------------------------

two points need to be made.

 

1: Hydee as asked that everyone hold off on sending letters at the moment until we have specific contact information.

 

2: This part of you letter

Not only have they banned our activities, they have refused to explain or discuss the matter with representatives of our sport who have approached them.
is not true. USF&W and not refused to talk with Groundspeak nor have they refused any explanations.

 

If you feel that you MUST write a letter, even after having been asked to wait, PLEASE, PLEASE, make sure that your information is accurate.

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