Bye-Bye Badlands Geocaches

 

Categories: Geocaching News United States

 
Dusk to dusk: Is the sun setting on physical geocaches in Oregon's Badlands? Photo: FRIENDS OF OREGON BADLANDS WILDERNESS

Dusk to dusk: Is the sun setting on physical geocaches in Oregon’s Badlands? Photo: FRIENDS OF OREGON BADLANDS WILDERNESS

Bad news for geocachers near Oregon’s Badlands.

Eighty-four hides spread over an 11,858-hectare wilderness area in the American state are to be removed by the Bureau of Land Management’s Prineville office. Of these, 47 will be canned permanently by mid-June, while 37 will be unavailable seasonally because they are hidden at sites closed for part of the year to protect wildlife.

imageAll of the affected geocaches in Deschutes and Crook counties are in locations the bureau has designated as wilderness, wilderness study areas, research natural areas (RNAs) or areas of critical environmental concern (ACEC).

According to Wikipedia, this high desert terrain is known for its igneous castle-like rock formations, ancient Juniper trees, sagebrush, and extensive arid land. Desert wildflowers, dry river canyons and Native American pictographs can also be found.

Molly Brown, field manager for the Prineville BLM, says the 84 geocaches in the Oregon Badlands wilderness and in an ACEC on nearby Horse Ridge are very popular because of their proximity to the city of Bend. In fact, they can be so heavily used that man-made trails have been created.

“It’s important to get the word out about where geocaches should and shouldn’t be placed because some sites are not designed to handle the type of concentrated use brought on by geocaching. The great news is that, once the groups know about the restrictions they’re very responsive and responsible. We’re grateful for the co-operation.”

BadssBrown says the Prineville office began identifying geocaching restrictions in 2005 based on the Upper Deschutes Resource Management Plan’s regulations for BLM-administered lands in Crook, Deschutes and northern Klamath counties.

In 2012, BLM policy prohibited physical geocaches, though not earthcaches or grandfathered virtuals, in its wilderness areas. Removal of these containers will bring the Prineville BLM into compliance with national policy and protect sensitive sites, she adds.

Eye spy: A red dot pinpoints the Oregon Badlands on a map of the United States.

Eye spy: A red dot pinpoints the Oregon Badlands on a map of the United States.

In a press release on the issue, Prineville BLM district manager Carol Benkosky says: “Geocaching is absolutely a legitimate use of public land but it’s inappropriate in wilderness areas.

“Most times when the public is setting up a site, they’re unaware that they might be putting it in a closed or a sensitive area, so we rely on the geocaching community to help us spread the word and educate fellow geocachers.”

Local players are complying with the changes but It’s Not About The Numbers spoke to two who dispute some of the BLM’s claims.

Nils Eddy (GC handle: bigeddy) says he owns “a couple of caches in the affected areas, as do many other geocachers” but he refutes the statement that 84 containers will be removed. “We will see how it plays out as the Geocaching.com reviewer works to determine which caches need to be archived by June 16. It should be less than 84. The Oregon Badlands have been closely managed already and we had a cache quota there, but Horse Ridge has been less managed.

“We have known about the BLM plans for some time, although they have been poor at communicating exactly what they were doing and why. There are several factual errors or misrepresentations in the recent media release. We’re working on it as a loose local organisation but it is difficult to deal with big bureaucracies and their blanket regulations.”

Not-so OK corral: Caches at Horse Ridge are among those targeted by the bureau. Photo: JEREMY MORAN/OUTDOOR PROJECT

Not-so OK corral: Caches at Horse Ridge are among those targeted by the bureau. Photo: JEREMY MORAN/OUTDOOR PROJECT

Fellow cache owner Gevin Brown (GC handle: Chief Paulina) has two hides in the Badlands – “one of which is a very unique and interesting cache” – but says BLM has not yet been in touch. He read about its decision online and is confused about exactly which areas the bureau is referring to “other than Horse Ridge”.

Mail call: The original Badlands Post Office container, with its post master Lava Louie.

Mail call: The original Badlands Post Office container, with its post master Lava Louie.

That hide he’s alluding to is GC91AA Badlands Post Office, a multi he placed back in September 2002 which now has the most favourite points in the area. Players must move the container – or deliver the mail, as Brown calls it  – to a new locale, registering the co-ordinates for the next finders.  It’s been shifted 578 times in 12 years, so it would be a shame if the BLM has it moved out of the Badlands altogether.

A third opponent has logged her complaints on the website of local radio station KBND. Bend resident Gladys Biglor writes: “First, the release states ‘geocaches in the Badlands are very popular … and can be so heavily used that trails are actually created’. Second, Benkosky states ‘most times when the public is setting up a (geocache) site, they’re unaware that they might be putting it in a closed or a sensitive area’ with no factual data supporting her statement.”

Biglor goes on to compare visitor numbers at two local geocaches – GCMJA5 Bye Bye Badlands and GC19P1C Pooches Retreat – with the use of two popular Badland trails: Badlands Rock and Flatiron trails.

Geocaches: Factual use shows an average of four visits a year for Pooches Retreat, and five visits a year for Bye Bye Badlands, outside of their establishment year. Given there is no trail to these caches, users take different routes to [get there]. I believe BLM officials would be hard-pressed to find evidence of claimed trails to these geocaches.

Trails: Any given weekend both Flatiron and Badlands Rock trail-head parking lots are packed to the gunnels with vehicles. Both trails show signs of excessive use. In 2009 I hiked the Flatiron Trail after the wilderness designation was passed by [US President Barack] Obama. Not only did I pass over 34 (I counted) hikers, the tail looked stomped to death as if more than 1000 head of cattle had been herded down it. That was the last time I set foot in the Badlands.

“As predicted by many responsible Badlands users during the public input phase, the wilderness values of solitude, spiritual inspiration and primitive recreation were destroyed by the official wilderness designation. In fact, the only wilderness values experienced by users now are geocachers, whom the BLM plans to eliminate.”

*What do you think of the Bureau of Land Management’s plans for the Oregon Badlands? Tell us below …

 

 
 



 

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  1. […] reading: The recently off of a 7 1/2 month hiatus It’s not about the numbers Geocaching blog blogged about this subject last week, including commentary from a few affected cache owners. We at OpenCaching North America have no […]

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