TraditionalMountaineering Logo - representing the shared 
companionship of the Climb

Home | Information | Photos | Calendar | News | Seminars | Experiences | Questions | Updates | Books | Conditions | Links | Search

  Search this site!
Read more:

Protest of the exclusion of Geocaching from The Badlands WSA by BLM's UDRMP

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 400,000 acre 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. The Protest document was written primarily by Nils Eddy and Gladys Bigelow based in part on the input of Central Oregonians on

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, is the formation of a Central Oregon Geocaching group that will strive to educate land managers and the public about the sport. This 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



Text of the formal Protest filed within the protest period according to BLM protocol:

Director, WO-210/LS-1075
Bureau of Land Management
Attention: Ms. Brenda Hudgens-Williams, Protests Coordinator
Department of the Interior
P.O.Box 66538
Washington DC, 20240

Robert Speik

Bend OR 97702

Additional Interested Parties:
Nils Eddy                                          Gladys I. Biglor and John C. Souhrada

Bend OR 97701                                 Bend OR 97701
541-382-2647                                     541-382-0516

Date: February 4, 2005

1) The Affected Interest of the Person filing the Protest:
My access, as well as the greater geocaching community’s access, to geocache in areas described within the Proposed Upper Deschutes Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement will be adversely affected.

2) Statement of the Issue Being Protested:
Restrictions on geocaching in specific areas:
Badlands WSA (Wilderness Study Area) 32,221 acres
Wagon Roads ACEC (Area of Critical Environmental Concern) 875 acres
Horse Ridge and Powell Butte RNAs (Research Natural Areas) 1,119 acres
Redmond Caves 40 acres
Tumalo Canals ACEC 433 acres
And, BLM’s grouping the dispersed recreational activity of geocaching with highly visible activities like paintball, rock hounding, target shooting, and motorized activities.

3) Parts of the Plan being protested:
Volume 1 – Executive Summary and Chapters 1 and 2
(A) No reference to restricting geocaching found in Executive Summary.
(B) Page 94 (PDF 144of 363) footnote – “For this plan, geocaching is defined as leaving any items on BLM administered lands for the purposes of posting or advertising the approximate location of those item for others to find”
(C) Page 94 (PDF 144 of 363), Wagon Roads ACEC – “The ACEC would be closed to the use of paintball guns. Overnight camping and geocaching activities south of McGrath Road (i.e., surrounding the segment of Huntington Road in Section 1) would not be allowed. No competitive events would be allowed except at designated trail or
road crossing points.”
(D) Page 95 (PDF 145 of 363), Lower Crooked River ACEC – “The RNAs would be closed to activities that concentrate use in certain areas, such as geocaching.”
(E) Page 95 (PDF 145 of 363), Badlands WSA – “Geocaching and the use of paintballs would not be allowed.”
(F) Page 96 (PDF 146 of 363), Badlands WSA, Caves – “The following would not be allowed in significant/nominated caves:…geocaching…”
(G) Page 96 (PDF 146 of 363), Redmond Caves – “The Redmond Caves parcel would be closed to campfires, overnight use (except under permit), geocache use, paintball use and rock hounding.”
(H) Page 306 (PDF 356 of 363), Redmond Caves, Archaeology, Human Activities – “The area is a popular location for teenage parties and unmanaged recreational uses such as OHVs, mountain bikes, camping, cave exploration, paintball competitions, and geocaching.”

Volume 2 – Chapter 3 to 5
(I) Page 174 (PDF 180 of 573), Caves – “Significant/Nominated Caves would be closed to geocache use (see Caving/Cave Dependent Recreation for additional effects and limitations).”
(J) Page 229 (PDF 235 of 573), Effects Common to Alternatives 2-7, Special Management Areas – “In many cases, the Special Management Areas that are common to all action alternatives are relatively small, and while they would represent a loss of certain opportunities such as motorized recreation, overnight camping, campfires, target shooting, paintball use, rock hounding, geocaching, etc, given the small scale of these areas in relation to the availability of opportunities elsewhere on BLM managed lands, the total effect would be minor.”
(K) Page 229 (PDF 235 of 573), Effects Common to Alternatives 2-7, Caving/Cave Dependent Recreation – “All alternatives close Significant/Nominated Caves  . . .would be closed to geocaching (i.e. the leaving of cache items). This limitation would represent a fairly small restriction on this use, since even with other restrictions on geocaching (closure of ACECs, RNAs and WSA’s) the majority of the planning area would remain open to this use. In any case, the use of the above mentioned areas for virtual geocaching (where items are not left) would remain.
(L) Page 456 (PDF 462 of 573) under Motorized use in Dry River Canyon ( response apparently misplaced) – “The Preferred Alternative proposes to permanently close the 40-acre Redmond Caves parcel to motorized use, along with other allowable use guidelines to protect these cave resources. These allocations and guidelines are described in Chapter 2 of the DEIS/FEIS, Common to Alternatives 2-7 and in the PRMP, Special Management Areas, and includes restrictions on campfires, overnight use, geocache use, and motorized or mechanized vehicle use. During preparation of the Draft UDRMP, the 40-acre Redmond Caves parcel was fenced and temporarily closed to motor vehicles to control motor vehicle access through the development of a site specific environmental assessment (EA).”

Volume 3 – Proposed Resource Management Plan and Appendices
(M) Page 43 (PDF 49 of 255), Tumalo Canals ACEC – “Overnight use, campfires, geocaching and use of paintball guns would not be allowed within the 433-acre area around the canal features (see Figure PRMP – 1).”
(N) Page 46 (PDF 52 of 255), Wagon Roads ACEC – “The ACEC would be closed to overnight use, campfires, use of paintball guns, and geocaching.”
(O) Page 47 (PDF 53 of 255), Research Natural Areas – “Both RNA’s would be closed to overnight use, mechanized travel, campfires, geocaching and the use of paintball guns.”
(P) Page 47 (PDF 53 of 255), Wilderness Study Areas – “Motorized use, geocaching and the use of paintball guns would not be allowed”.
(Q) Page 49 (PDF 55 of 255), Caves – “The following acts would not be allowed in nominated/significant caves:…..Geocaching…”
(R) Page 50 (PDF 56 of 255), Redmond Caves – “The following activities that are not allowed within significant/nominated caves would also not be allowed in all of the 40-acre Redmond Caves Parcel: …Geocaching…”

4) Discussion of issue which was previously discussed with the BLM
Only one comment on geocaching was submitted to the BLM during the public comment phase of the Draft UDRMP and is a permanent part of the analysis file. The comment was submitted by a Prineville District Recreational Planner. The person submitted the information as a concerned public citizen, however, not as an employee.

This person was generally supportive of Alternative 7; however felt that a few modifications were warranted. In particular the person believed that “Geocaching should be allowed in the Badlands and Steelhead Falls WSAs.” It is apparent in the testimony that the individual knew that geocaching could meet BLM interim management policy for lands under Wilderness review. The individual pointed out that geocaching has sufficient internal monitoring and quality control processes to ensure that caches could easily be policed to meet resource objectives. If need be, the agency could easily contact cache owners should removal of a cache be needed.

5) Protest Details:
As you know, Oregonians are extremely proud of our deep commitment to conserving our natural resources and preserving our special natural areas. We know that you share our desire to protect the beauty and natural heritage of Oregon for our children and our entire Nation’s future generations. The geocaching community is a small subset of Oregonians dedicated to conserving, protecting and preserving our nation’s special places.

(A) Plan Summary - Please understand that we are a loosely organized group of individuals who share a common interest in geocaching. A few of us were aware of the Draft Upper Deschutes Resource Management Plan (DUDRMP) during the planning process and even read the Summary. Because there is no mention of geocaching in the Executive Summary, we felt there was no need to respond to the BLM during the draft comment phase, nor was there any reason to become active in the Plan process.

In addition, the public involvement process was highly focused on off-road vehicles and never identified geocaching as a concern that would preclude the BLM from meeting resource management objectives. There is no record of complaints about geocaching.

The geocaching community did not become aware of the proposed ban in the DUDRMP until after the public comment period was closed and again after the Final Plan was released, January of 2005. Had the geocaching community known that there would be a proposal to ban geocaching; members of the community would have worked with BLM staff to address any identified concerns.

(B) Definition of Geocaching – The definition given for geocaching in the Plan is incomplete and ambiguous. It leaves out many forms of caching and, if interpreted literally, would not allow anyone merely hiking in the Badlands to give their latitude and longitude coordinates to others in order to meet.

A reasonable description of geocaching used by the BLM in Instruction Memorandum No 2003-182, Geocaching Activities on BLM Public Lands, June 2nd, 2003, is: “Geocaching is an outdoor adventure game for global positioning system (GPS) users. Participating in a cache hunt is an activity designed to take advantage of the features and capability of a GPS unit and enjoy the freedom of access to public land.”

A unique aspect of geocaching for land manager’s to keep in mind is that there are many variations of caches including: virtual (no container), moving, (each visitor finds a new hiding place), multi-stage (many points to get to the final cache typically marked with small tags), and puzzle (given coordinates are not the cache).

(C) through (G) and (I through R) – The common problem with these sections and others in the Plan is that they propose restrictions on geocaching without identified justification or analysis. Searching through the Plan, the reader cannot find where clear rational is used to justify the restrictions.

This is inconsistent with NEPA guidelines. NEPA sets forth regulations to ensure that the “impacts of any proposed decision are fully considered and that appropriate steps are taken to mitigate potential environmental impacts.” USGS NEPA Purpose and Implementation At a minimum, according to USFS and BLM NEPA Coordinators, a NEPA analysis must disclose how the identified activity affects (negatively and positively) the natural resources and values that the agency is trying to protect, and show explored mitigation opportunities.

Evidence of the lack of understanding and analysis of geocaching is clear in that no alternative, other than the No Action Alternative, explored the possibility of allowing geocaching, or the many different forms of geocaching, to continue. As already mentioned, geocaching was not an activity of high concern by the public. In stark contrast,
the use of motorized activities was highly contentious and all of the analyzed alternatives allow some form of motorized activity to take place coupled with appropriate mitigation.

From inquiries made to BLM staff, it appears that the perceived problems of geocaching are:
1. The Placement of human evidence – caches
2. Concentration of use caches encourage – specifically the creation of user trails.

If the geocaching community had had an opportunity to provide input to the BLM, we would have been able to alleviate the fears of BLM resource managers. Geocachers have a history of over four years of geocaching on BLM lands in Central Oregon.

Placement of caches – Geocachers are knowledgeable of, and practice, the ethics of Leave No Trace recreation. The best caches are located in areas where cachers are not able to easily discover the presence of the cache or the presence of previous cachers. Caches that have been placed in the Badlands, in ACECs, and around the Redmond Caves and the Tumalo Canal, are placed so that they do not impair the BLM from meeting land use objectives. In addition, BLM policy in WSAs is to allow for uses that meet defined nonimpairment criteria:

“The BLM’s management policy is to continue resource uses on lands under wilderness review in a manner that maintains the area’s suitability for preservation as wilderness…. The use, facility, or activity must be temporary. This means a temporary use that does not create surface disturbance or involve permanent placement of facilities may be allowed if such use can easily and immediately be terminated upon wilderness designation. “Temporary” means the use or facility may continue until the date of wilderness designation, at which time the use must cease and/or the facility must be removed.” “Surface disturbance” is any new disruption of the soil or vegetation, including vegetative trampling, which would necessitate reclamation.” Chapter I. Management Policy for Lands Under Wilderness Review – U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management. H-8550-1 Interim Management Policy for Lands Under Wilderness Review.

Concentration of the use caches encourage – Concentrated user trails was not identified as a problem in the FEIS. Geocaching has a highly developed, internal system of monitoring and enforcement. Geocachers engage in continual monitoring of caches and are quick to archive (eliminate/remove) inappropriate caches. When asked, Prineville BLM staff was unable to provide local geocachers with any documented evidence that the development of user trails was happening and that it was negatively affecting the natural resources and values identified in the UDRMP.

1. Caches by design are well hidden and highly unlikely to degrade a noncacher’s experience. Indeed, a motto of geocaching is, “Cache In – Trash Out” so our net effect is to lessen the visual clutter of unwanted, contemporary, trash on public lands.
2. Cachers approach caches from various starting points which ensure that well worn user trails do not occur.
3. Distance to caches limits the numbers of cachers who visit. For instance caches in the Badlands record far fewer visitors than caches close to paved roads and in urban areas.

A couple of the oldest caches in the region are in the Badlands and these show no signs of developing user trails. User trail development in this area is not expected because the caches are visited infrequently (documentation shows an average of less than twice/month). For reference, consider that there are only 17 caches in the roughly 32,000 acres of the Badlands. That represents less than one cache for every 1,882 acres. This type of highly dispersed hiking is unlikely to generate user trails. It hardly differs from the typical cross-country hiking as is currently acceptable in the area and is allowed in the all of the alternatives including the preferred alternative. Footprints in this area, no matter if they are generated by geocachers or bird watchers, have been shown to quickly disappear after wind or precipitation events.

Furthermore, avoiding sensitive areas is already an established policy in placing and hunting caches. To begin with caches are not approved for listing in inappropriate, sensitive, or questionable areas. Geocachers specifically avoid placing caches near archeological sites, in sensitive caves or on unstable ground. The few times a cache has been inadvertently hidden in such a location, it was quickly removed when the error was discovered. Likewise seasonal closures of certain areas to protect wildlife have been routinely dealt with by disabling the cache during restricted periods.

(G through I), (L), (Q), and (R), Redmond Caves – These caves are an example of how geocaching can complement BLM goals. A single cache was placed in this small area by a member of the consultant team that worked on the Redmond Caves Management Plan with the City of Redmond, the Warm Springs Tribes and the BLM. The cache was located carefully outside of the caves with the purpose of educating the public about this unique feature that is surrounded by development and that needs protection. Judging by the many positive log entries and by the trash removed by geocachers, the goal was achieved. The cache was archived after 18 months when a detailed assessment of the caves was to begin.

(J and K), Small Area/Minor Affect – The argument that the restricted areas are only a small fraction of public land, “this limitation would represent a fairly small restriction on this use, since…the majority of the planning area would remain open to this use” is off-point. What is important is that the FEIS has not shown a reasonable, systematic reason for banning geocaching. Geocachers recreate in the Badlands, in the ACECs and in the RNAs for the same reasons as other people. These areas provide a unique experience found nowhere else in the UDRMP. These are relatively large areas with a varied hiking experience, relatively free from motorized vehicles, with winter access and a great complexity of terrain in which to experience the best that geocaching has to offer.

(C, E, G, H, J, M, N, O, P), Associated Recreational Activities - Finally, it is troubling that the BLM lists geocaching in the same context as paintball, rock hounding and other visible or extractive recreational activities. Such grouping is totally inappropriate.

Protest Conclusion:
The Plan failed to show how geocaching would detract from resource goals. There is every reason to believe (due to the lack of credible evidence showing otherwise) that geocaching benefits the management objectives of the Plan: in particular primitive recreation and preservation of the area’s special qualities. In addition, geocaching meets BLM’s internal management policy for WSA “to continue resource uses on lands under wilderness review in a manner that maintains the area’s suitability for preservation of wilderness”. Interim Management Policy for Lands under Wilderness Review

Geocaching in particular:
1. Has low, dispersed use and minor impacts that, when and if they happen, can be alleviated.
2. Is successful at self-regulating itself to lessen potential impacts and respond to changing resource needs.
3. Helps educate the public on the history and natural features of the area, and promotes a base of advocates for protection and preservation of special areas.
4. Improves navigation and backcountry skills that enhance safety and respect for the environment.
5. Provide much needed eyes on the public land which promotes security and discourages illegal activities.
6. Routinely assists manager as geocachers pack out trash they find as well as schedule periodic trash removal events in conjunction with agency administrators.
7. Has assisted agency staff in precisely identifying significant features.

For these reasons we believe the BLM has made an uninformed proposed decision to ban geocaching in the Proposed Upper Deschutes Resource Management Plan based on faulty information and nonexistent data. I respectively request that the BLM reconsider its proposed decision and permit geocaching within the Upper Deschutes Resource Management Area. I do so for myself and for the geocaching community at large.



Robert Speik



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