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Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands

In My View
The Bulletin
By Robert Speik
Published on Thursday, February 24, 2005

Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands

The BLM’s Upper Deschutes Resources Management Plan, the UDRMP, is an agency-required standard periodic review of on the ground management of our huge desert land area east of Bend, Oregon. Within this management area lies The Badlands Wilderness Study Area (WSA), established over 25 years ago.

The recently published BLM Management Plan arbitrarily eliminates the activity of Geocaching in The Badlands WSA.

There was no discussion or hearing about the elimination of Geocaching from The Badlands WSA during the months long public debate of the UDRMP. Obscure references buried in the huge document went un-noticed by the general public.

Only one comment on Geocaching was submitted to the BLM during the public comment phase of the Draft UDRMP and it is a permanent part of the analysis file. The comment was submitted by a BLM Recreational Planner speaking as a concerned public citizen, not as an employee.

This informed person believed that “Geocaching should be allowed in the Badlands and Steelhead Falls WSAs.” It is apparent in the comment that the individual knew that geocaching could meet BLM interim management policy for lands under Wilderness review.

I have filed a formal legal Protest of this UDRMP ban of Geocaching with the BLM office in Washington, D.C. My Protest is based in part on the fact that the Plan failed to provide for the established legal right of local folks to continue using their public lands for an activity until there has been a public hearing covering any proposed management limitation of use.

Geocaching was proscribed by the BLM planners because some times, items from the size of 35mm plastic film containers to the size of rusty small caliber ammunition boxes, are hidden from view to be found with GPS, map and compass.

Since these small items are hidden from view, this was not their primary concern, according to BLM Planners In Prineville.

The Planners believe that the urban area of Bend will grow and that more and more folks will be drawn to free year-around outdoor recreation in The Badlands WSA. They fear that geocachers might create a network of user trails in the desert sand and volcanic rock, off the proposed established trails in the 32,000 acre WSA.

If the Geocaching community had been asked to comment on this exclusion, they would have noted that there are about seventeen Geocaches in The Badlands, placed over the past three or four years. Visitation to these more difficult and interesting caches has averaged under two times a month. That is about one Geocache per 1,882 acres.

Inspection of many of these caches will show no evidence of user trails since wind and rain events last smoothed the sand, and footprints do not mark volcanic rock outcroppings.

Also, Geocaching was singled out for elimination because the activity might permanently damage the established Wilderness values of the WSA. The authors of the UDRMP cannot support their assertion that permanent damage to the desert rocks, sand and sage will result from Geocaching. Because identified individuals are responsible for the maintenance of each Geocache, all Badlands Geocaches could be removed permanently within a week or so.

My advisors and I expect that, based on the eight page legal Protest, Geocaching will not be banned in the existing Badlands WSA.

The next question is, will Geocaching be banned in the proposed Badlands Wilderness?

I support a congressionally protected Badland Wilderness, land that cannot be sold to perpetuate urban sprawl. So do most thoughtful people in the greater Bend community.

Whether or not a specific Geocache can be maintained in a Wilderness area is up to the local land managers. The Wilderness Act of 1964 does not address Geocaching; there are many Geocaches placed in Wilderness areas across the nation, according to Nate Irish of Groundspeak, Inc.

Some Wilderness advocates oppose anything artificial in Wilderness. This includes maintained trails, trail signs, bridges, designated numbered campsites and so on. Some wilderness advocates picture a Geocache as just “litter”.

Many land managers are confused about Geocaching. Some believe it is a hunt for buried treasure.

Marv Lang, Recreation Forester for the Bend-Ft. Rock Ranger District, was quoted as having had “several caches removed from the Three Sisters Wilderness”. Since all Geocaches are approved by regional managers at and are either currently posted or are permanently archived on the website if removed, we confirmed with Lang that the several caches he mentioned were actually not Geocaches but un-related items abandoned in the forest.

A positive result of this challenged BLM planning decision, has been the formation of a Central Oregon Geocaching group that strives to educate land managers and the public about their sport. The group has been accepted by Marv Lang as a member of the Trail User Group (TUG) Advisory Committee of the Deschutes-Ft.Rock Ranger District.

Robert Speik is a Bend based mountain climbing instructor and website author.




Read more . . .

  The Badlands Wilderness
OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
Fee Demo groundwork may save Geocaching on our public lands
Protest of exclusion of Geocaching in Badlands WSA in BLM's UDRMP
BLM's UDRMP puts Bend's Badlands off limits to Geocaching
Deschutes County Commissioners hearing on Badlands Wilderness support
OHV use restricted in Upper Deschutes Resource Management Plan

Winter hiking in The Badlands WSA just east of Bend
Tread Lightly OHV USFS tip of the month

OHVs to be held to designated trails by USDA Forest Service!
New pole shows Badlands Wilderness favored by voters
BLM posts Reward for information on Juniper rustlers
BLM weighing public input on management plan
Oregon's Badlands hit by old growth Juniper rustlers  Photos
Congressman Greg Walden to visit The Badlands
Badlands Wilderness endorsed by COTA
OpEd - Unregulated OHV use is being reviewed across the western states
OHV use curtailed by new USFS policy decisions 
Sierra Club's Juniper Group supports Badlands Wilderness 
OHV regulation discussed at BLM meeting in Bend, Oregon
OpEd - Badlands part of BLM's recreation management area
OpEd - We need the Badlands Wilderness 
OpEd - Off-roaders have no reason to fear Badlands Wilderness designation
Speak for the Badlands at Town Hall Meeting 
Hiking poles are becoming essential gear 
Vandals destroy ancient pictographs in the Badlands
Senator Wyden tests support of Badlands Wilderness
Badlands Wilderness endorsed by Bend City Commissioners
The Badlands: proposed for Wilderness status

The Badlands unique geologic forms explained by Chitwood  pdf
The Badlands, a brief history  
The Badlands pictographs reported 75 year ago

Map of huge exclusive OHV areas adjoining the Badlands