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USFS Road 18 Caves Environmental Assessment (EA)
Provided by Les Moscoso
Recreation O & M Supervisor Deschutes Nat'l Forest
Road 18 Cave Environmental Assessment
Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District
Deschutes National Forest
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The Bend-Ft. Rock Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest has initiated an Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze wildlife resources (including bat habitat), recreation opportunities, geologic features, native vegetation, and heritage resources at nine caves on Road 18 (China Hat). The project includes low and high use caves that were addressed in the 1999 Cave Strategy: Boyd Cave, Arnold Ice Cave, Skeleton Cave, Charcoal Cave, Hidden Forest Cave, Wind Cave, Bat Cave, Deg Cave, and Charlie the Cave.


The Cave Strategy identified conditions and recommendations related to the resources identified above. Some of the conditions identified pose a threat to caves and cave resources, and to the quality of the recreation experience of these caves. Generally, the Cave Strategy recognized a need to maintain caves and cave resources through time by reducing, eliminating or changing human use patterns.

The primary purpose of this EA is to address the continued degradation of unique and non- renewable caves and cave resources of the nine caves listed above, most of which are within the Arnold lava tube system. It addresses the emerging impacts of a visitor use mind-set which allows mostly unrestricted cave access. Management adjustments would reduce or eliminate impacts to caves and cave resources from human use. This approach is designed to provide the Forest Service with a template for uniform and consistent management for each cave discussed in this EA (see Attachment A).

As recreational use has expanded over the last five to eight years at some caves, and due to projected population growth of central Oregon, there is a need for actions to achieve long-term management goals. Specifically, the Cave Strategy identified the following long-term goals:

• Prevent damage to caves and cave resources, including wildlife habitat and heritage resources.
• Restore caves and cave resources that have been damaged by previous human use or management actions.
• Where provided, recreation management and facilities should reduce or eliminate cave resource impacts caused by visitation and use patterns.

Furthermore, human use is changing or impacting the characteristics and resources of caves in terms of the following:

• New use patterns and trends have changed the 'sense of discovery" and solitude that could be found at many caves. We see a need to maintain or restore this type of experience and setting.
• Current parking area design and location causes impacts to caves and cave resources. We see a need to improve facility function and design.
• The quality of wildlife habitat, especially for bats, has diminished with increased visitation to some caves. We see a need to restore and/or maintain the quality of wildlife habitat, especially as it relates to roosting, maternity and hibernacula for bats.

Cave Resource Impacts: Parking facilities and User Roads

Caves and cave resources have deteriorated with the increase in visitation and recreation activities over the last five to eight years. With little if any site definition at the caves (i.e. visitor facilities, designated parking areas, pathways, etc.), new user-defined parking areas and roads have developed on the landscape. This has resulted in the loss of unique vegetation, wildlife habitat and aesthetic quality. There is a need to restore and maintain the natural setting at the entry of each of the caves along Road 18.

Vegetation and Wildlife Habitat: User Trails and Sport Climbing

With the increase in use and visitation to the caves, there has been a corresponding increase in dispersed trails, litter, bolting in cave ceilings and walls, as well as damage to cave resources including loss of wildlife habitat and heritage resources. Combined, these have changed the traditional, aesthetic, and recreational experience that people have come to enjoy and anticipate. Such use can also diminish the experience of solitude, quiet, or scenic beauty that people have enjoyed in the past.

The introduction of sport climbing at several caves has also affected cave resources, including wildlife habitat. Some of the areas may be important for neotropical bird nesting habitat, or act as feeding areas or hiding places for species specifically connected to these environments.

Specifically, habitat for nesting and roosting bats has been lost by the placement of bolts and trails and associated human use. We see a need to protect this important bat habitat and other wildlife habitat, and provide a recreation setting consistent with the setting of the area.

Factors that influence management recommendations include: a predicted increase of the central Oregon population and cave visitation, site sensitivity, wildlife habitat, recent events and trends (i.e. sport climbing and bouldering), and impacts from human use and visitation. The Road 18 Cave EA will include site-specific analyses and public involvement to assess these management recommendations and decide on a course of action. (See Attachment B for further background information that helped lay the groundwork for this proposal.)

Actions Common To All Caves

Install an information kiosk at the Boyd Cave parking area/trailhead near Road 18. The kiosk would route access to most caves. Also, install an advance notice sign on Road 18 to inform travelers of the kiosk. Bold lettering that states "Cave Information" would identify the kiosk. The kiosk would provide useful cave information such as existing closures and "leave no trace" ethics. The kiosks would inform visitors of cave etiquette and restrictions. The kiosks would also provide information to promote a better understanding and appreciation for caves, cave resources and other resources in the area.

To provide agency consistency with seasonal closure periods, hibernacula closure dates will be October 15 to May 1. Maternity closure dates will be April 15 to September 30. (Note NEPA decision not needed to implement this recommendation.)

• For caves with parking facilities, institute a self-issuing permit program to collect information on the visitor's name, purpose, number in party, comments and use patterns.

• Permanently eliminate the use of fixed or removable anchors within all caves. Remove bolts and rehabilitate all existing scars. Bolting of permanently fixed anchors is considered an act which "disturbs, defaces, mars, or alters . . . any significant cave" as defined in the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act.

• Should the need arise, allow additional Special Use tours under authorized permit. Permittees should display a public need with an approved operating plan. Limit existing and future group size to 6-8 people at one time and no more than three tours per cave per day. Appropriate caves for this activity include Boyd, Skeleton, and Wind. Permittees would be responsible to include cave sensitivity/conservation etiquette for each group.

Other special uses, such as movie making, should be authorized on a case-by-case basis.

• Restrict access to foot traffic only to promote public safety and to protect soil and geological resources. Do not allow mountain bikes, horses, or motorized vehicles in caves. Continue to evaluate new recreational attractions and make recommendations based on impacts to cave resources and visitor safety.

• Prohibit use of internal combustion engines (such as generators) in caves.

• Prohibit the use of glass containers within caves to reduce litter and provide a safer environment to visitors.

• Maintain current populations of unique plant species in and near cave entrances by encouraging foot traffic in designated areas.

• Add the wording ".. and possession of' to the ban on use of hand drying agents {36 CFR 261.9(a)(j)}.

• Prohibit possession and use of alcoholic beverages as defined by state law in all caves.

Current restrictions are from sunrise to sunset.

In addition, the following table displays further actions on a cave-by-cave basis.

Table 1. Proposed Actions by Cave

Boyd Relocate the parking area near the junction with Road 18. Obliterate road and convert to single-track non-motorized use to cave. See attachment C.
Arnold Ice Redesign the parking lot & footpaths to divert unnatural seasonal water flows away from the cave. Close all user-made roads that originate from the parking lot. See attachment C.
Skeleton Relocate the parking area near the junction with Road 1819-200 (approximately 1/4 mile from cave). Close road with bollards. Allow non-motorized use to the cave on closed road. Road needed for future fire access requirements. See attachment C.
Charcoal #1 Provided at Arnold Ice Cave parking area. Self-discovery; no system trail developed; self-discovery. Emergency closure order in place until further data recovery is completed.
Hidden Forest Provided at Arnold Ice Cave parking area. Self-discovery; no system trail developed; self-discovery. Climbing closure on warm-up wall south of cave in breakdown area.
Wind Relocate the parking area near the junction with Road 18 (approximately 2/3 mile from cave). Close road with bollards. Allow non-motorized use to the cave on closed road. Road needed for future fire access requirements. Closed for bat hibernaculum 11/1-4/15.
Bat Provided at Wind Cave parking area. Self-discovery; no system trail developed; self discovery. Closed for bat hibernaculum 11/1-4/15.
Deg None. Close to all use. Closed for bat hibernaculum 11/1-4/15. Closed for bat nursery 4/16-9/30.
Charlie None Install a gate to the lower passage; no system trail developed; self-discovery. Lower passage closed for bat hibernaculum 11/1-4/15. Upper chamber closed for bat nursery 4/16-9/30.


An interdisciplinary team will develop alternatives to this proposed action based on your input. If you believe there are issues which the team should consider, please direct your comments to the team leader Les Moscoso at (541)388-5664 or write him at Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District, 1230 NE Third Street Suite A-262, Bend, OR 97701, or e-mail at Comments can be received throughout the process, but are most helpful if received by May 12, 2000. You will have another opportunity to comment later in the summer when alternatives are developed and the EA is available at the Ranger District office, or on the internet via the Deschutes National Forest Website at Additional details on this proposal are available upon request.


Bend-Ft Rock District Ranger


Road 18 caves are governed by a variety of Federal laws, resource direction, manuals and plans. What follows is a brief summary of the various components of the management direction for the area.

Organic Administration Act of June 4, 1897
This Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to regulate occupancy and use of the National Forests. Regulations issued under the Act authorize protection of cave resources from theft and destruction (36 CFR 261 .9a, 9b, 9g, and 9h). Under 36 CFR 294.1, classification is authorized for special interest areas that are managed for recreation use substantially in their natural condition. Special closures are authorized under 36 CFR 261.53 to protect threatened cave resources. (16 U.S.C. 551)

Preservation of American Antiquities Act of June 8, 1906
This Act provides for the protection of historic or prehistoric remains or any object of antiquity on Federal land. Criminal sanctions are authorized for destruction or appropriation of antiquities. Scientific investigations of antiquities on Federal lands are permissible subject to permit and regulations. Uniform rules and regulations pursuant to this Act are in FSM 1530.12. (34 Stat. 225; 16 U.S.C. 431 et seq-)

National Historic Preservation Act of October 15,1966
This Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to use measures to foster conditions under which our modem society and our prehistoric and historic resources can exist in productive harmony. The Department of Agriculture shall assume responsibility for the preservation of historic properties which arc located on lands administered by such agency. If such properties are listed or may be eligible for the National Register that these properties are managed and maintained in a way that considers the preservation of their historic, archaeological, architectural, and cultural values. (80 Stat. 915, as amended; 16 U.S.C. 470h)

National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
The purpose of the Act is to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony. The responsibilities include the preservation of caves which are part of our national heritage. (42 U.S.C. 4331)

Endangered Species Act of December 28, 1973
The Act describes the process for determining endangered and threatened species, establishes prohibited acts, prescribes penalties, mandates a recovery plan, and defines interagency and State cooperative relationship requirements. (87 Stat. 884, as amended; 16 U.S.C. 1531)

Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976
This Act declares that the policy of the United States is that lands be managed in a manner that will protect the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archaeological values. Where appropriate these lands will be preserved and protected in their natural condition. (43 U.S.C. 1701)

Archaeological Resources Protection Act of October 31, 1979
This Act clarifies and defines "archaeological resources," prohibits the removal, sale, receipt, and interstate transport of archaeological resources obtained illegally from public lands. The Act authorizes confidentiality of site location information, authorizes permit procedures to enable study and investigation of archaeological resources on public lands by qualified individuals; provides for substantial criminal and civil penalties, forfeiture of equipment used in the crime, and rewards for citizens who report the crime. The Act supplements but does not replace the Antiquities Act of 1906. (16 U.S.C. 470aa)

Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of November 18,1988
The purpose of the Act is to secure, protect, and preserve significant caves on federal lands for the perpetual use, enjoyment, and benefit of all people, and to foster increased cooperation and exchange of information between government authorities and those who utilize caves located on federal lands for scientific, educational, or recreational purposes. It is the policy that federal lands be managed in a manner which protects and maintains, to the extent practical significant caves. (102 Stat. 4546; 16 U.S.C. 4301-4309)

The Code of Federal Regulations
A codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the Executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government. These regulations as set forth by the Secretary of Agriculture govern the protection and administration of National Forest System lands. (36 CFR)

USM 2356
Caves arc dynamic natural Systems affected by surface and subterranean environmental changes. The policy of this manual is to manage caves as nonrenewable resources while maintaining their geological, scenic, educational, cultural, biological, hydrological, paleontological, and recreational values.

Deschutes National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan Developed to guide all natural resource management activities and establish standards and guidelines. The purpose is to provide for the use and protection of Forest resources, fulfill legislative requirements, and address local, regional, and national issues and concerns.

Brothers- LaPine Resource Management Plan
Developed to guide all management activities and to provide for the use and protection of resources on Bureau of Land Management public lands.


Caves were placed in one of the following classes based on management objectives consistent with identified cave resource values (Cave Strategy). Values were obtained using an interdisciplinary team and professional judgment.

Class 1, Sensitive Caves.
Caves considered unsuitable for exploration by the general public either because of their pristine condition, unique resources or extreme safety hazards. They may contain resources that would be impacted by low levels of visitation. These caves are not shown on maps or discussed in publications (such as guides, brochures or magazines) intended for general public use. Specific management guidelines will be developed for each sensitive cave for the purpose of protecting and maintaining their resources. These caves will be closed by order of the Forest Supervisor or Area Manager, and entry may be allowed by permit only.

Class 2, Directed Access Caves.
Caves with directed public access and developed for public use. These caves are shown on maps or have signs directing visitor access; may have guided tours and artificial lighting. Regardless of the level of development, public visitation is encouraged. The caves may have sensitive resources that are protected.

Class 3, Undeveloped Caves. Caves that are undeveloped but are suitable for exploration by persons who are properly prepared. In general, these caves contain resources that resist degradation by moderate levels of recreational use. Caves may need seasonal closures to protect sensitive species. Public attention will not be directed toward these caves. They will not be shown on maps nor discussed in brochures or publications intended for general public distribution.

Road 18 caves provide a variety of recreation opportunities for the public, whether cave novice or expert. Cave Class Ratings adopted in the Cave Strategy have been evaluated as a system of caves. The following table displays each cave by class.

Table 2: Cave Class Ratings.

Boyd 2
Arnold Ice 2
Skeleton 2
Charcoal #1 3
Hidden Forest 3
Wind 2
Bat 3
Deg 3
Charlie 3



• Willfully defacing, removing, or destroying plants or their parts, soil, rocks or minerals, or other cave resources {36 CFR 261.9 (a)(j)}.
• Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or stove fire is prohibited {36 CFR 261.52(a)}. Smoking in caves {36 CFR 26l.52(c)}.
• Camping in caves {36 CFR 261.58(e)}.
• Discharging a firearm, air rifle or gas gun {36 CFR 261.58(d)}. • Digging, excavating, or displacement of natural and/or cultural features (36 CFR 261.58 (a)(b)(c)(d)(g)(h)(i)}.
• At caves designated by official signs, between sunset and sunrise each day, possessing a beverage which is defined as an alcoholic beverage by state law {36 CFR 261.52(bb)}.
• Possessing a domestic animal (dogs) in caves {36 CFR 261.58(s)}.
• Depositing human waste in caves {36 CFR 261.58(ee)}.
• The caves open for sport climbing' are only Skeleton, Hidden Forest, and Stout (currently closed; see Stout Cave specific restrictions).
• A moratorium has been enacted on installation or removal of permanent anchors (bolted hangers) in all caves {36 CFR 261.9(a)(j)}.
• Ban on use of hand drying agents is in effect (36 CFR 261.9(a)(j)}.

Trail Head Modifications:

Wind Cave Trail Head
Skeleton Cave Trail Head
Boyd Cave Trail Head
Arnold Ice Cave Trail Head