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Thread: Ouachita National Forest Geocaching Policy

  1. #1
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    Ouachita National Forest Geocaching Policy

    The Board of Directors has unanimously agreed upon and is currently working on a set of actions to address the issue of fees being charged for permits for geocaches placed in the Ouachita National Forest. The Board has also agreed that its focus will be on the elimination of the fees, but not the permits. This would make the Ouachita NF policy consistent with that implemented in 2006 by the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. Input from the ArkGeo members was requested before the list of actions was finalized for general membership release. We wish to thank those who contacted us to provide specific, constructive suggestions and helped us on this.

    The specific actions to be taken are as follows:

    1) Start a petition of geocachers in support of eliminating the fee.
    2) Contact each one of the National Forest offices in Region 8 and survey their requirements for geocache placement.
    3) Set up a meeting with an official of the Ouachita NF to present the results and propose the elimination of the fee. This meeting should be limited to three representatives from ArkGeo (including no more than 2 Board members). Here are the things we would need to have ready:

    a. Findings from our survey of the Region 8 offices.
    b. Petition results
    c. A list of geocaches currently hidden in national forests of Arkansas.
    d. A copy of the Ozark NF policy

    A draft petition has been prepared, but formal requirements for the petition are being researched by a Board member to ensure that the petition is not rejected on a technicality. It is expected, however, that the petition will be ready for members to sign at the annual social event at Lake Catherine State Park on May 31.

    Emails have been sent from a Board member to the supervisors in each of the Region 8 national forest headquarters soliciting information regarding their official geocaching policies and associated fees, if any. No responses have been received yet.

    Chuck Walla, the Geocaching.com geocache reviewer for Arkansas, has also notified us that a topic has been posted on the reviewers-only forum at GC.com about national forest policies with regard to permits (particularly fees). The Board is waiting on a response from Chuck Walla on the final results of that forum inquiry. However, the initial results provided about a week ago identified no other national forests that charged a fee for a geocache permit.

    A list of geocaches in the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests still needs to be prepared. This will be delegated to a non-Board member. Volunteers are needed.

    The meeting with the Ouachita NF remains to be scheduled. The group of ArkGeo representatives to attend the meeting will be selected by the Board from recommendations by the members of ArkGeo. Recommendations should be provided by email or private message to one of the Board members no later than May 30. Once the ArkGeo representatives are selected, they will be tasked with scheduling and preparing for the meeting with the Ouachita NF.

    The Board recognizes that additional actions may be warranted, either before or after the meeting with the Ouachita NF official. If any ArkGeo member has a recommendation on some other action that should be considered by the Board, please post a note to this thread or send one of the Board members an email with your recommendation.

    The Board asks that this thread be reserved for specific comments about the plan from members and the status of actions taken from the Board. General discussions about the Ouachita policy and the expression of opinions about the Board’s actions should be posted in the existing thread under the “Arkansas Geocaching” forum section.

    As always, the Board appreciates any volunteers to help with carrying out this plan.

  2. #2
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    Apr 2007
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    Thank you very much for your post here in response to the NFS charging fees to place caches.
    This plan is exactly what I was hoping the Board was going to do.
    If you have the petition ready by the 31st of May I will certainly sign it.
    I will support your efforts in any way I can except personally being the spokesman to the NFS.. I am the one that gets tongue tied talking to strangers.
    Thank you again.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
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    47

    Re: Ouachita National Forest Geocaching Policy

    Quote Originally Posted by ArkGeo_Board
    The Board has also agreed that its focus will be on the elimination of the fees, but not the permits.
    I for one, do not feel this is a decision that is the Board's to make without (after an appropriate opportunity for discussion) formally putting the question to the membership of AGA.

    I believe, if we act intelligently, we have just as good a chance of repealing the entire permit system all across Region 8 and possibly the entire country as we have of knocking down the fee requirement. But no matter what, we're only going to get one shot at this. If we waste the shot knocking down the fees and don't even try to remove the permit policy, we're missing the only opportunity we're ever going to have.

    1) Start a petition of geocachers in support of eliminating the fee.
    I am unclear exactly what the purpose of this petion is. Who is to be petitioned what (roughly) is being petitioned, and who is the petition to be submitted to?

    3) Set up a meeting with an official of the Ouachita NF to present the results and propose the elimination of the fee. This meeting should be limited to three representatives from ArkGeo (including no more than 2 Board members). Here are the things we would need to have ready:

    a. Findings from our survey of the Region 8 offices.
    b. Petition results
    c. A list of geocaches currently hidden in national forests of Arkansas.
    d. A copy of the Ozark NF policy
    As long as we're being forced to deal with this issue, why should we restrict ourselves to only addressing the Ouachita NF policy? Consider for a moment, contacting the Region 8 headquarters directly, rather than setting our sights "low" on the ONF.

    In other words, if we coordinate with other State Geocaching organizations throughout the Region 8 area, we will have far greater strength in numbers and will have pretty much the same likelihood of success in creating a uniform policy within the entirety of Region 8, rather than simply a uniform policy in Arkansas. After all, this is not just an Arkansas issue, it is a national issue. We should avail ourselves of as much additional weight as we can get.

    A draft petition has been prepared, but formal requirements for the petition are being researched by a Board member to ensure that the petition is not rejected on a technicality. It is expected, however, that the petition will be ready for members to sign at the annual social event at Lake Catherine State Park on May 31.
    Is this the same petition mentioned above? Again, what do we hope to accomplish with this?

    Emails have been sent from a Board member to the supervisors in each of the Region 8 national forest headquarters soliciting information regarding their official geocaching policies and associated fees, if any. No responses have been received yet.
    How long ago were these emails sent out? Did they go out in the last couple days or did they go out long enough ago that we can now assume those emails are not going to get replies?

    Chuck Walla, the Geocaching.com geocache reviewer for Arkansas, has also notified us that a topic has been posted on the reviewers-only forum at GC.com about national forest policies with regard to permits (particularly fees). The Board is waiting on a response from Chuck Walla on the final results of that forum inquiry. However, the initial results provided about a week ago identified no other national forests that charged a fee for a geocache permit.
    Again, I thought we knew this quite some time ago.

    I strongly suggest/urge the creation of a thread on the GC.Com forums calling for support from other cachers across the nation who cache on any National Forest lands. As I said above, this isn't simply an Arkansas issue, it is a national issue.

    American Geocachers should not look at the ONF as the ONLY NF that charges a fee, but rather as the FIRST one to do so. Once this is understood, it becomes everybody's issue.

    Imagine for a moment, Senators and Congressmen all across the US getting a sudden barrage of letters from geocachers concerned with this issue. If only 10% of those receiving letters bothered to pick up the phone and call USDA wanting to know why they were suddenly dealing with thousands of irate constituents, I believe it's safe to say, the USDA (who answers to these elected officials and must go to them for budget appropriations) would start re-writing their geocaching policies poste haste.

    A list of geocaches in the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests still needs to be prepared. This will be delegated to a non-Board member. Volunteers are needed.
    Simply start a thread in the general forum asking all AGA members to list their caches by waypoint. You won't get every cache in the ONF because there are plenty of geocachers who have nothing to do with the AGA. But you won't get every cache the other way either. The numbers you DO get with a posted request on this site will be quite impressive enough.

    Also, realize this particular point is a double edged sword. Showing this massive number of caches to an ONF official may very well encourage them to believe there is a great deal of revenue to be gained by leaving the policy in place.

    In these times of ever increasing fuel prices, governmental entities are as hard hit as everyone else. They are looking for ways to generate revenue to stretch their operating budgets and the ONF fee policy is almost certainly such an attempt.

    The meeting with the Ouachita NF remains to be scheduled. The group of ArkGeo representatives to attend the meeting will be selected by the Board from recommendations by the members of ArkGeo. Recommendations should be provided by email or private message to one of the Board members no later than May 30. Once the ArkGeo representatives are selected, they will be tasked with scheduling and preparing for the meeting with the Ouachita NF.
    I recommend instead that representatives traveling to meet with any government entity be chosen not by the Board but by the Geocaching membership at large.

    Nominations can be made publicly in a thread on this website. There is no need for anonymity in suggesting potential candidates. In fact, I'd say if one was unwilling to make their nomination publicly, their nomination should be disregarded.

    I also argue strenuously against any relevant communcations with the board in this matter or any other, taking place out of sight of the general membership. Secrecy and lack of communication has cost us enough lately, let us put an end to it here and now. Please.

    The Board recognizes that additional actions may be warranted, either before or after the meeting with the Ouachita NF official. If any ArkGeo member has a recommendation on some other action that should be considered by the Board, please post a note to this thread or send one of the Board members an email with your recommendation.
    My recommendations recapped.

    Individually contact other state geocaching organizations within the Region 8 Area in an effort to enlist their aid and support in this matter which affects all of us.

    Begin an organized campaign on GC.Com forums to enlist the aid of any and all geocachers within the United States.

    Organize a nationwide letter writing campaign, encouraging geocachers to write their own elected representatives about this issue. Letters to recommend a complete reversal of any permit or fee policy. Hunters don't have to pay a fee to use the land, why should we?

    Address any and all actions to the NATIONAL level rather than local or regional offices. Use the regional and local offices as information sources and possible liason, but no more.

    Thinking small gains only small victories.

    The Board asks that this thread be reserved for specific comments about the plan from members and the status of actions taken from the Board. General discussions about the Ouachita policy and the expression of opinions about the Board’s actions should be posted in the existing thread under the “Arkansas Geocaching” forum section.
    For the purposes of this thread, who exactly is "The Board?" When "ArkGeo_Board types, who's fingers are hitting the keys?

    Who decides what words those fingers are going to type? How and when were these decisions made?

    If a vote took place to decide what course the Board was going to pursue, when did the vote take place, who voted, and how did they vote?

    If there was no vote, why wasn't there one? How did the Board choose a course of action without a vote?

    These are things that should be reported to the AGA membership. Not just in relation to this specific issue, but always. After every meeting, whether it be regularly scheduled or special meeting.

    The disclosure issue in general is a subject best served in another thread but for now I would like to see answers to these specific questions as soon as possible.

    Thank you.

  4. #4
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  5. #5
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    Here’s the status of our survey of Region 8 national forests. As of today, 5 national forests have responded as follows:

    Apalachicola NF, Florida – special use permit required, $57 fee
    Osceola NF, Florida – special use permit required, $57 fee
    Kisatchie NF, Louisiana – special use permit required, $57 fee
    Conecuh NF, Alabama – special use permit required, $50 fee
    Cherokee NF, Tennessee – special use permit required, $57 fee (they also stated that their policy had been in place since April 4, 2006)

    I also spoke with someone in the Ozark – St. Francis NF headquarters in Russellville today and he confirmed that the O-SF NF had not changed its policy – “permit” required (actually, just a registration) and no fee charged. He did not foresee a change in the policy.

    I will provide another update once I get a few more responses in.

    Old River Runner
    ArkGeo Board Member
    "Wildness is a necessity." -- John Muir

    "When you go to hide a geocache, think of the reason you are bringing people to that spot. If the only reason is for the geocache, then find a better spot." – briansnat

  6. #6
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    Hot Springs Village
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    Thanks for the info!! It doesn't look like things are trending in our favor. If there are that many forrests that require the permit and fee then the ONF will see no need to change it. I think we will be able to do no more than lodge a complaint with them. Hopefully we can get something done though. Thanks for all the effort that is being put into this.

  7. #7
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  8. #8
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    Jacksonville, Ar.
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    Quote Originally Posted by OEnavigator
    How many NF are in Region 8 anyway?
    OEnavigator, I just googled it and came up with 28 National Forest in Region 8 which includes Puerto Rico. It's a fairly large area. Here is a link to all the NF in Region 8.

    http://gorp.away.com/gorp/resource/us_n ... soeast.htm

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    47
    Thanks for the update OOR.

    To the Board:

    There are two ways AGA can go from this point.

    1. Tell ourselves the issue is too big, we probably can't get anything done anyway, make a half hearted effort, and fail as planned.

    or...

    2. Realize this issue is much larger than just Arkansas or even Region 8 and realize as well, the issue is much larger than we (The AGA) are and begin an effort to enlist the aid of other State Geocaching organizations as well as individual concerned cachers around the country.

    If this policy is not challenged on a national scale, it will be the death of all geocaching in all US National Forests and we will have done nothing to stop it.

    These forests belong to all of us and there is no good reason why Geocaching Americans should be deprived the use of what is in fact and in law, their land as much as any other American's.

    We can organize and stand as a group or get knocked down as individuals.

  10. #10
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