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In the latest issue of National Geographic (April 2004) on page 91, the chief ranger and law enforcement officer of Badlands National Park, Scott Lopez takes a shot at geocaching.

 

On page 90 he talks about professional 'fossil hunters' who illegally gather fossils from the park and sell them. Then on the bottom of page 90 the article says:

 

"Besides outright theft, now we have to worry about geo-caching," says Lopez. In this latest twist to a treasure hunt, people hide a container and perhaps a trinket, take the GPS coordinates, and put the coordinates on the Internet.  Other people go to the location and try to find the cache. 

 

Although a treasure hunt may seem a nuisance at worst, and can have the positive effect of getting people out in nature, Lopez warns of an escalation: Some geo-cachers are finding fossils in park rocks and putting those coordinates on the Web.  Anyone can then come to look - or to take.

 

I assume that since traditional caches are already banned in national parks, he's talking about virtual caches inside the park boundary, such as GCE8A8 "Monty Man".

 

I don't want to start a flame fest against Scott Lopez, or the author of the article, John L. Eliot, but at the same time I think we need to explain the true nature of geocaching, and geocachers, to these gentlemen.

 

In my opinion, conflating geocaching with fossil poaching is inexcusably bad journalism.

 

The Badlands National Park page has a contact form

and National Geographic can be contacted at ngsforum@nationalgeographic.com.

 

Edit: Added contact information

Edit: Fixed typo

Edited by CompassCollector
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<_< Yep. I suppose the only way those fossils will ever become known is if cachers post their coordinates. We all know that only cachers know how to put anything on the internet, or even use GPS receivers. There's just no way anyone would steal those fossils if it weren't for the scourge of cachers descending upon them and publishing their coordinates.
"Besides outright theft, now we have to worry about geo-caching," says Lopez.
So what is geocaching? Veiled theft? I'm telling everyone I know to avoid buying any NG topo maps, software, or products of any kind. If you're going to paint caching with a biased brush, be fair and have a positive caching article in the same issue.
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Yep RK.......and all

I have seen the ones who are suppose to be protecting do more damage than a geo-cacher.

 

If you study any Geology at all fossils are found around the world.

Why are their's so different than the ones in my back yard?

Or in the Petrified Forest,Or at Rock Hound State Park...

 

Any type of mining,that is what fossils are(Mineral deposits) is under the Jurisdiction of the B.L.M.

 

I go through it often when surface mining gold,you just have to follow B.L.M. rules for the specific mineral mined.

Even in Wilderness,and National Parks.everything is NOT OFF Limits as they say.

just geocaching.

 

I better quit or I willlllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll---------0000000

 

Patience is a virtue so I will wait to see the outcome,If a letter writing is required I guess we could do it.

 

We will not get the Light that we all expect 100% of the time,as is said,

 

You can not have Sunshine and Rain at the same time.

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This practice is a new one on me. I haven't seen any fossil sites posted here, or elsewhere by geocachers. And since there are no geocaches in national parks, how does he know geocachers are doing this? Anybody know where I can get this guy's address so I can let him set me straight on this?

 

EDIT: I guess I should have read the entire OP before responding Still, this Monty Man virtual is apparently along something called the Fossil Trail, which indicates to me that it could be a tourist attraction. So it doesn't seem like they are trying to discourage visitors, so I still don't see the guy's beef with geocachin.

Edited by briansnat
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Obviously the concerm about disturbing what could be a first fossil in a new find is real and valid. How many times has this happened? If its such a concern that the ranger is commenting on it to Nat Geo, and they will print it, then either of them should be able to tell us how many times a geocacher has done this on GC.com.

 

Haven't been up to the badlands to go geocaching, but I would have to suspect, based on my previous trips there that we are far less than 10% of his visitors.

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I followed the link to the virtual cache that allows geocachers to discover interesting fossils in Badlands National Park. It looks like an excellent virtual cache, the kind that would take me to a place I might otherwise have skipped during my visit. It gets good logs, and not a single one of them says "Left Nothing, Took all the fossils I could carry."

 

Then, I went to the website for Badlands National Park. There, I read one page about the history of paleontology activities in the area, one page about the Fossil Walk Trail, and one page about the Interpretive Programs offered by the park staff to explain fossils and the need to preserve them. Sounds like an excellent program and a nice trail to hike.

 

To be consistent about not saying anything on the internet that might give away the fact that there are fossils in this park, Scott Lopez needs to update his own website and change the name of this trail to "Trail to show you Top Secret things that can't be mentioned on the internet" and change the name of the interpretive program to "Briefing for Those With Proper Security Clearances."

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It seems Mr. Lopez's concern with geo-cachers over most park visitors on the "fossil" trails is that geo-cachers make it easier to find the fossils by accurate GPS coordinates. Where most visitors would walk the trail labeled "fossils" possibly with the intent to take them, they are not as likely to find them as a GPS user, who got the exact location of the fossil from gc.com.

 

Sounds like a valid concern to me. We would like to think that the geo-cacheing community would never steal these precious relics, but fact is, there are some that would. Making it easier to do so could be a problem. Of course since cars have been invented it is easier for me to dump a body further from my home. (not that I would do that <_< )

 

I think he is over reacting to the new technology. The positive effects as stated in the article “ (Geocaching) can have the positive effect of getting people out in nature,” out way the negative effect of the few that think it’s a good idea to “find fossils in park rocks and put those coordinates on the Web.”

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It seems Mr. Lopez's concern with geo-cachers over most park visitors on the "fossil" trails is that geo-cachers make it easier to find the fossils by accurate GPS coordinates. Where most visitors would walk the trail labeled "fossils" possibly with the intent to take them, they are not as likely to find them as a GPS user, who got the exact location of the fossil from gc.com.

 

Sounds like a valid concern to me. We would like to think that the geo-cacheing community would never steal these precious relics, but fact is, there are some that would. Making it easier to do so could be a problem. Of course since cars have been invented it is easier for me to dump a body further from my home. (not that I would do that <_< )

 

I think he is over reacting to the new technology. The positive effects as stated in the article “ (Geocaching) can have the positive effect of getting people out in nature,” out way the negative effect of the few that think it’s a good idea to “find fossils in park rocks and put those coordinates on the Web.”

This doesn't appear to be a legitimate problem, in my opinion. I searched for caches in Badlands NP, and I came up with a grand total of one, which I listed in my original post. As others have pointed out, it is on a marked trail.

 

There are other caches nearby, but not actually *in* Badlands NP. Ranger Lopez appears to be jumping the gun.

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When I was last there, the Fossil Walk Trail was a short loop leading past plexiglass-covered exhibits of fossils, supposedly in situ. There are no obvious fossils just laying around, though that might be partially because it's a common stop along the road through the park.

 

As far as National Geographic 'getting it wrong', shouldn't that 'honor' belong to Scott Lopez? I would think that the rangers have greater concerns currently with the squatters in the South Unit (see the recent Backpacker magazine; the article does not seem to be online).

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When I was last there, the Fossil Walk Trail was a short loop leading past plexiglass-covered exhibits of fossils, supposedly in situ. There are no obvious fossils just laying around, though that might be partially because it's a common stop along the road through the park.

 

As far as National Geographic 'getting it wrong', shouldn't that 'honor' belong to Scott Lopez? I would think that the rangers have greater concerns currently with the squatters in the South Unit (see the recent Backpacker magazine; the article does not seem to be online).

I'm not sure. Ranger Lopez's quotes are marked, but the author appears to extend them somewhat. Regardless, I think it was irresponsible for the author to relay Ranger Lopez's (potentially legitimate) concerns as if they were a serious existing problem.

 

Geocaching is one thing, and fossil poaching with a GPS is something else entirely.

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As far as National Geographic 'getting it wrong', shouldn't that 'honor' belong to Scott Lopez? I would think that the rangers have greater concerns currently with the squatters in the South Unit (see the recent Backpacker magazine; the article does not seem to be online).

i feel they both got it wrong. scott lopez for saying somthing so stupid, NG for not doing any research on geocaching and getting their point of view.

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NG isn't exactly an investigative news magazine. I can see how their writer might simply trust the 'expert', the ranger at the park in question.

 

Still, it could be valuable to see if it's possible to have National Geographic present a different take on our sport. So, 5 degrees of separation time... Who knows someone who knows someone at the NG Society?

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The tone of the ranger's comments is typical and not uncommon:

"This is *my* park and *my* land so don't touch anything or you'll be asked to leave". :D

 

Many public land managers somehow forget that they are supposed to be managing the land for the public to use. <_<

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I've e-mailed a copy of Harleycahce's letter to Scott Lopez, with a few changes. And I am mailing a letter, listed below to the park superintendent. Given how inflexible fedreal law enforcemtn can be I think his boss should also be getting feed back as well.

 

I have grown tired of these pronouncements regarding Geocaching from various people who represent their organizations in the media. Often times misinformed. I realize that this may not make any immediate change in their policies, but the more often our opinions are heard the better our chances are in the future. I would urge everyone to e-mail Scott Lopez and consider sending a letter to his boss.

 

Ihope everyone will take a moment to do the same

************************************

William Supernaugh

Park Superintendent

Badlands National Park

25216 Ben Reifel RD

P.O. Box 6

Interior, SD 57750

 

Dear Mr. Supernaugh,

 

In an April 2004 issue of National Geographic Magazine, Scott Lopez was quoted as saying:

"Besides outright theft, now we have to worry about geo-caching," says Lopez. In this latest twist to a treasure hunt, people hide a container and perhaps a trinket, take the GPS coordinates, and put the coordinates on the Internet. Other people go to the location and try to find the cache.

Although a treasure hunt may seem a nuisance at worst, and can have the positive effect of getting people out in nature, Lopez warns of an escalation: Some geo-cachers are finding fossils in park rocks and putting those coordinates on the Web. Anyone can then come to look - or to take.

As a Geocacher I was disturbed by what was implied and the misinformation regarding Geocaching and the National Park Service. The type of cache referred to, a container and trinkets in it is a “physical cache”. As you are well aware the NPS has banned physical caches and the local volunteers who approve caches for Geocaching.com will not approve any physical caches on NPS land.

The only cache located within Badland NPS is the Monty Man cache, a virtual cache. Virtual caches involve identifying a unique local landmark. The Monty Man cache is located along the Fossil Exhibit trail, the same trail that is actively promoted on the Badlands website to the general public. At no time do you leave the trail to see this cache and given the public nature of this trail it would be very hard to remove any fossils without being observed by other park visitors or park personnel.

Although the Monty Man cache has been listed for one year, it has had only 15 visits, an almost insignificant number compared to the total number of visitors during that same time. Not even enough people to justify Mr. Lopez’s concerns about theft and or provide evidence that Geocaching contributes to this situation. If he does have valid concerns I am confident that he could addresses them through Geocaching.com and utilize local Geocachers to assist him monitoring and resolving any concerns.

On the whole Geocachers are very respectful of the environment and would not engage in removing fossils or any other artifacts. Many Geocachers throughout the United States volunteer their time to participate on organized clean ups of parks and have assisted state and local agencies in creating policies that allow Geocaching without impacting the environment.

While I share Mr. Lopez’s concerns about theft of archeological and historical artifacts his misinformed, over reaction, in a magazine with the international stature of National Geographic is not accurate. In relation to Geocaching and its impact on Badlands National Park.

Edited by magellan315
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When I was last there, the Fossil Walk Trail was a short loop leading past plexiglass-covered exhibits of fossils, supposedly in situ. There are no obvious fossils just laying around, though that might be partially because it's a common stop along the road through the park.

 

As far as National Geographic 'getting it wrong', shouldn't that 'honor' belong to Scott Lopez? I would think that the rangers have greater concerns currently with the squatters in the South Unit (see the recent Backpacker magazine; the article does not seem to be online).

Having been interviewed by newpaper reporters over the years, most recenty re-geocaching a couple of times. I can tell you from first hand experiance that the media is not 100% on the mark, most time they get something wrong B) . I just do not trust much of anything from the medie. It seems they do not want to bother with checking facts B) , You would have thought that National Geographic would have contacted some from geocacing.com, of course the way the arteicle was written, any group that wants to stop people from caching in there area can use this article as ammunition. trust me some one will. I would not be surprised if the National geographic reporter had a hidden agenda. if anything someone from geocahing should send a letter of the National Geographic. I would also ask fropm proof for the claims made by the park rangers

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NG isn't exactly an investigative news magazine. I can see how their writer might simply trust the 'expert', the ranger at the park in question.

 

Still, it could be valuable to see if it's possible to have National Geographic present a different take on our sport. So, 5 degrees of separation time... Who knows someone who knows someone at the NG Society?

I know that the people in the National Graphic software dept in the past have had an interest in ways to incorporate thier software to make it more geocache freindly. I have a list of ideas for them.

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I wrote a letter to National Geographic as well. Basically like the ones I've read here. This is the response I got from them.

 

Thank you for writing to the National Geographic Society.

 

We appreciate the comment or suggestion you have sent to us about a NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine article, our Website, or one of the many other aspects of the National Geographic Society.  I will see that all comments are circulated among the appropriate staff here at our headquarters and that comments on our magazine articles are given to our FORUM editor for consideration.

 

Again, thank you for your interest in the Society.

 

esd

 

Don't know about anyone else, but sure seems like a blow-off to me.

 

F_M

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At least you got a response. They were not blowing you off, this is a standard form letter that they send out to acknowledge that they received your e-mail. I hope you will be one of many.

 

It becomes harder for them to ignore the matter on an internal level when people start asking why are we getting all of these e-mails on the same subject.

 

When you send a letter to your congressman they do not read it, but their staff does and compiles statistics so the congressman knows how many letters/faxes/e-mails on a given subject and wether they were for or against something.

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When you send a letter to your congressman they do not read it, but their staff does and compiles statistics so the congressman knows how many letters/faxes/e-mails on a given subject and wether they were for or against something.

I just love sending lots and lots of e-mails to Barbara Boxer on gun control issues. I usually get a form-response (always the same) within a day or two. The last one I sent didn't get responded to for two months! What were they doing? Irradiating her e-mail?!

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When you send a letter to your congressman they do not read it, but their staff does and compiles statistics so the congressman knows how many letters/faxes/e-mails on a given subject and wether they were for or against something.

I just love sending lots and lots of e-mails to Barbara Boxer on gun control issues. I usually get a form-response (always the same) within a day or two. The last one I sent didn't get responded to for two months! What were they doing? Irradiating her e-mail?!

BOXER, She is just a little to the left of Stalin, not much, maybe a couple of thousand miles to the left.

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