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Thread: Ouachita National Forest Geocaching Policy

  1. #21
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Hot Springs Village
    Posts
    621
    I would be more than willing to help develop a letter for a mass mailing campaign. I would aslo help out in any other way that is needed. I have woked extra days to cover for some of my cowokers so that is why I haven't had much to say lately. I like what I hear so far though and I think we can make some headway with this.

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Russellville
    Posts
    913
    I've received only one additional response in the 10 days since I last posted information received from the Region 8 national forests. This new response was for both the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests in South Carolina. Here's what they had to say:

    A permit is required for geocaching per the regional policy attached below.We would charge the minimum fee which is $57. However, the district ranger may choose to waive the permit (FSM 2719) if it is a non commercial use with nominal effects.
    It is the last sentence which I find very interesting and which I believe supports my impression about the NFS not understanding what geocaching is all about.

    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

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Ridgway, CO
    Posts
    465
    Bingo. You are onto something I believe. Great investigation ORR!!

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Russellville
    Posts
    603
    southerngirl and I will be hosting a CITO event in September for the Ozark National Forest around the Dover - Piney Area. This would be a GREAT time to give back to a district that understands exactly what geocaching is and thank them. I would love to pull out a few tons of trash from the forest and have that in the paper. Having a district that likes what we do is very valuable I believe.

    Perhaps this is an event that AGA would like to endorse?

    I know the event is a few months away, but it's never to early to signup for it. Anyways, I just thought this would be a good thing to throw into this discussion. Being able to show how geocaching helps the NFS is a great way for the ONF to view our sport.

    Thanks.


    Crow Mountain Crafts FB Page

  5. #25
    Greetings from Idaho.

    I've been following this debacle for some time now and have a few observations.

    First off, I believe the best course that has any chance of success is to fight to eliminate or reduce the fees.

    The permit policy is unlikely to be rescinded without litigation. I doubt that this loose organization is prepared financially to support such an effort.

    Second, from an outsiders perspective, the threads here on this topic suggest a group that is at odds with each other and can't decide amongst themselves what to do. To assume that the folks that make these policies won't or don't read these threads is dangerous.

    Finally, it's been suggested that this group reach out to other NFS areas and survey them on what they're doing/ not doing. All this will accomplish is restricting caching in those areas as well. NFS managers adopt many of the policies of their peers in other areas. Don't help the cancer spread.

    This will likely sound defeatist to some, but you must pick battles that you can win. A free permit policy is a reasonable compromise.

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Russellville
    Posts
    603
    Check out the other thread on this issue as I may have found something interesting.


    Crow Mountain Crafts FB Page

  7. #27
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Russellville
    Posts
    913
    ArkGeo members and members of the Arkansas geocaching community:

    On Tuesday afternoon, August 26, I spoke with Elaine Sharp, a Lands Forester with the Ouachita National Forest, concerning any changes the NF geocache policy. She told me that the official policy has not changed but that there has been some further clarification on when a geocache would require a “special use permit” (and the permit fee of $57) and when the permit (and fee) could be waived and also how the policy is to be implemented.

    The determination of whether a special use permit is required or not will be made at the District Ranger level. If someone wishes to place a geocache within the Ouachita NF, they will need to go to the District office for the area in which the geocache is to be placed and discuss it with the ranger in charge. The proposed location of the geocache and how long the owner plans to have the geocache in place will be topics of discussion. The ranger will then determine whether a special use permit is required or not. A key consideration will be whether the geocache placement will have a “nominal impact” on the area. In other words, would the Forest Service even know if it was there and would it be a problem to them in any way (such as sensitive wildlife or plant life in the area, or archaeological sites nearby, or is it a designated wilderness area)? If the answers to these questions are “no’, then the impact would be considered nominal and no permit would be required. Again, this determination would be at the discretion of the district ranger.

    The key here is that you need to work with the district office to get approval for your cache placement and I think that in almost all cases, you will be able to have the permit waived. After many discussions by telephone with Forest officials in both Atlanta and Hot Springs, it is my impression that they don’t want to stop geocaching; they just want to know where the geocaches are located and they want to avoid damage to the forests.

    They also don’t want geocaches placed and just abandoned in the forests, because geocaches are still considered to be “private property”. So you need to give some consideration to how long you want your geocache to be in place before you plan on removing it or asking for an extension. No specific time limit is set. Again, the time limit is at the discretion of the districts, based upon the location of the hide.

    I asked Ms. Sharp about geocaches already hidden in the Ouachita NF. She recommended that the owners contact the district office, “ask for forgiveness”, and then work with the ranger to determine whether the permit can be waived. My impression was that she did not think that the “forgiveness” part would be a big deal.

    So, it looks to me like there has been quite a bit of change in how the Ouachita NF will be approaching geocaches in the future. I think this new approach is just common sense – the district ranger and the geocacher working together to ensure that the public lands are protected while at the same time providing a growing recreational activity to many visitors who might not otherwise visit the Ouachita NF.

    I’m not sure what drove this change. Maybe it was the letters to the senators and congressman, and their questioning of forest officials. Maybe it was the phone calls or letters to the NF office from various geocachers, which told them of the dissatisfaction with the policy. I suspect that, most likely, it was the combination of these things. Which goes to show that as a organization, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

    Frank / Old River Runner
    President, ArkGeo Board of Directors
    "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

  8. #28
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Russellville
    Posts
    915
    Thanks for the positive update on this Frank. I am going to get in touch with the ranger in the district that I have 2 caches hidden in later this week. I think all of us who have caches already hidden need to go ahead and do so as soon as possible. This will help to open lines of communication and I am sure they all still have questions that we can answer to help them to better understand what geocaching is. this is definitely a move in the right direction so lets keep it going.

  9. #29
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Hot Springs Village
    Posts
    621
    Looks like we finally have some good news on this!! Thanks for all the effort everone put into this.

  10. #30
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Jessieville,AR
    Posts
    321
    WOOOHOOO!!! My thanks to everyone who has been involved in getting to this point!
    Guess what?! I got a fever, and the only prescription...is more cowbell!!

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