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Thread: Ouachita National Forest Caching

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    280

  2. #12
    I've talked with folks at the Ouachita National Forest offices and have also emailed them for more information. Unfortunately, you will not like what I found out. The bad news is that permits are now required and they do cost $57.00 per year.

    Following are the two emails that I received today about this:

    Email 1:

    Hi,

    As you requested, here is the Southern Region's direction regarding geocaching. If you have any questions, please call me.

    Elizabeth Gross
    Recreation, Lands, Minerals
    Caddo-Womble Ranger District
    Ouachita National Forest
    1523 Highway 270 East
    Mt. Ida, AR 71957

    Region 8 Manual Supplement 2720, part 2724.44

    2724.44 - Treasure Hunting

    1. This designation includes the temporary placement of personal property for the purpose of geo-caching. 36 CFR 261.10(a) requires a special use authorization for occupancy and use of National Forest system land. This is further supported by 36 CFR 261.10(e) that prohibits abandoning personal property on National Forest system land.

    2. Screen proposals to locate traditional (physical) caches using 36 CFR 251.54. Authorize traditional caches on FS 2700-5 Temporary Special Use Permit. The GPS coordinates of the caches must be included on the permit. Charge the regional minimum fee.

    3. Traditional cache containers shall not exceed 12” on any side (height, width, or depth). Containers must be non-breakable, animal resistant, and have a closing mechanism to prohibit content exposure to wildlife and the environment. Containers must be permanently marked with the Holder’s permit ID, Name, address, and telephone number.
    Caches may not contain food, alcohol, tobacco, weapons of any type, fireworks, drugs, or other similar items. Caches may not be buried or hidden under water. Caches may not be placed in dangerous, inappropriate, or protected areas and habitats.

    4. Virtual caches do not require an authorization. A virtual cache is a physical object that can be referenced through latitude and longitude. A virtual cache could be a geologic or unique feature or unusual landmark. Encourage use of virtual caches opposed to
    traditional caches.

    5. Activities similar to geo-caching (for example, GPS Stash Hunt, Benchmark Hunting, Letterboxing, Geo-Poker) shall be administered in accordance with Geo-caching. Competitive events involving a participation fee will be authorized as a recreation event.

    6. The activity of searching for geo-caches is a personal recreation pursuit and does not require an authorization.

    7. Forests may adopt more restrictive policy on geocaching activities, such as restricting geocaching to virtual caches only.

    Email 2:
    (After receiving the email shown above, I asked several questions for clarification. This email responds to those questions.)

    Mr. Walla,

    Ms. Gross referred your questions to me for response.

    Thank you for your comments and questions.

    1. The minimum regional land use fee for 2008 is $57.00. Land use fees are adjusted annually according to an index similar to the consumer price index. Permits for caches are renewed on an annual basis if need be. Each year the cache is in place, there is a land use fee charged. The policy envisions that caches are temporary and would not be in the same location for more than a year.

    2. The permit issued would be for a one-year period or less. If someone wanted the cache to be permitted for a longer period than a year, they could apply for another permit to replace the permit that would be expiring.

    3. Currently, there no plans to add geocache information to the Ouachita web page. Persons wishing to locate a cache on the Ouachita NF should contact the nearest Ranger District to make application. District contact information is available on the Ouachita NF web page.

    I reviewed the Ozark link you provided and found the information to be accurate; however, as you pointed out, information regarding land use fees is not given at the site. I am unaware of any geocache permits being issued on the Ozark without a land use fee being charged.

    Land use fees for geo cache permits are set by Regional Manual supplements, and not by policy of the Ouachita NF. The minimum land use fee of $50 set by the region was considered to be a nominal amount when it was implemented in 2004. Since the Region periodically updates land use fees and revises policy, I will pass along your observation concerning the land use fee set for geo cache permits. The Ouachita NF follows Regional direction on issuing and administering this type of permit. There are regulations requiring land use fees for special use permits and these regulations can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations 36, Parts 200-299; specifically at 36 CFR 251 Subpart B, 251.57 (a). The Region 8 (Southern Region) Manual Direction previously provided to you gives direction to the Forests in the Southern Region on how to implement the special use Regulations as they pertain to geocaches. There is no National Policy concerning geocaching.

    Thank you for your suggestion that the Forest communicate the Regional Geocache policy to Ouachita District staff. I forwarded your concerns to our Districts by email and sent them a copy of the Regional Geo cache policy for reference.

    Since email has its limitations for effective communication, feel free to
    contact me at ******* if you have any questions.

    Elaine Sharp
    Forester, Lands
    Ouachita, NF
    "Volunteering is for suckers. Did you know that volunteers don't even get paid for the stuff they do?" -- Homer Simpson

  3. #13
    Based upon what I have learned today, I will now require that new caches placed in the Ouachita National Forest have a permit from the NF.

    Regarding caches that are currently in place, it is up to you whether you want to get a permit, pull your cache, or do nothing. I asked Ms. Gross if existing caches would be grandfathered and her response was that it was not high on their priority list to search for existing geocaches, see if they had a permit or not, and then notify the owner to pull the cache or get a permit. She did not ask me to do anything. So I will not advise anyone on what they should do about their existing caches, unless I get further direction.

    I did inform the Forest Service folks, by telephone and by email, that I thought the prohibitive fee being charged would effectively kill geocaching in the Ouachita National Forest.
    "Volunteering is for suckers. Did you know that volunteers don't even get paid for the stuff they do?" -- Homer Simpson

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    280

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Jessieville,AR
    Posts
    321
    WOW! I would say that I'm stunned, but the truth is, I'm a little sick at my stomach. We (all geocachers) will have to band together and fight this. I feel like we are being charged a fee that was devised for another use, say.. logging or mining. I, as do every one of you, believe this is an exhorbitant fee, imposed by someone who had to include our activity in some category, and that one just happens to have a land use fee, not in line with the extent of our activity.
    With the state of our economy and other such important matters to tend to, I doubt if our concerns will merit much notice from our representatives, but I think that is probably where we should start.
    I for one agree with OEnavigators, in that I will not be removing mine, until someone makes me.
    Thanks CW, for checking on this for us.
    Guess what?! I got a fever, and the only prescription...is more cowbell!!

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    280

  7. #17
    I am surveying the other Geocaching.com reviewers to see what geocache permit fees, if any, are charged by national forests in their areas. Several responses have been received and so far no other national forests have been charging a fee. Many still don't require a permit. I'll let you know the final results after I let the survey run a while longer.
    "Volunteering is for suckers. Did you know that volunteers don't even get paid for the stuff they do?" -- Homer Simpson

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Bourbonnais, IL
    Posts
    22
    I have a question. Will this potential fee include the Leatherwood wilderness near Mountain Home, or will it just be the National Parks?

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Morrilton
    Posts
    545
    I think it is about time that a few people get in touch with the Ouachita National Forest and discuss our point of view. Chuck Walla has been trying and is doing a lot to help us with this problem.
    In my opinion this is just someone’s interpretation of a land use fee. I have placed a couple of caches in the Ozark National Forest without any trouble and with no mention of fees. If possibly a group representing the ArkGeo went down to talk with who sets the policy in the Ouachita NF this may go over before Smokey gets to close to the fire.
    I think the board is already working on something, I hope. Can anyone from the board chime in?
    This is very similar to the State Parks Banning Geocaching.
    $57.00 would defiantly stop me from placing anymore caches.
    I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world.
    Thomas A. Edison

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Glenwood
    Posts
    185
    The Ouachita National Forest main office is in the Federal Building in Downtown Hot Springs. I will be there if we could get some "HIGH UP IN THE FOOD CHAIN" representatives from our organization to set up a meeting with the ONF. Being that Chuck Walla is our "Approver" of all caches in this area it would be nice to see him/her there as well. We can get name tags so that everybody knows who everybody is.

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