Cave and Karst Management
NPS authority for the management of cave resources comes from the general authorities discussed in the Introduction to this Reference Manual, the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988 (FCRPA) and its implementing regulations at 43 CFR Part 37, and the Lechuguilla Cave Protection Act of 1993, 16 U.S.C. § 4301 note (1994).
Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988
The Federal Cave Resources Protection Act (FCRPA) states that:(1) significant caves on federal lands are an invaluable and irreplaceable part of the nation’s natural heritage; and(2) in some instances, these significant caves are threatened due to improper use, increased recreational demand, urban spread, and a lack of specific statutory protection.The FCRPA regulations at 43 CFR § 37.11(d) state that "The policy of the National Park Service, pursuant to its Organic Act of 1916 (16 U.S.C. 1, et seq.) and Management Policies (Chapter 4:20, Dec. 1988), is that all caves are afforded protection and will be managed in compliance with approved resource management plans. Accordingly, all caves on National Park Service administered lands are deemed to fall within the definition of 'significant cave.'"The purposes of the FCRPA are to:(1) secure, protect and preserve significant caves on federal lands for the perpetual use, enjoyment, and benefit of all people; and(2) foster increased cooperation and exchange of information between governmental authorities and those who use caves located on federal lands for scientific, educational, or recreational purposes.The FCRPA establishes that "It is the policy of the U.S. that Federal lands be managed in a manner which protects and maintains, to the extent practical, significant caves." In order to comply with the intent of the FCRPA, cave resources must be inventoried, or existing inventories used, to determine the significance of individual caves.
The FCRPA also contains a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption, addressing the confidentiality of information concerning the specific location of significant caves to ensure protection of the resource. The FCRPA states: "Information concerning the specific location of any significant cave may not be made available to the public under section 552 of Title 5, United States Code [FOIA] unless the Secretary determines that disclosure of such information would further the purposes of this chapter and would not create a substantive risk of harm, theft, or destruction of such cave." 16 U.S.C. § 4304(a).
National Parks Omnibus Management Act of 1998
Another Freedom of Information Act exemption is contained in Section 207 of the National Parks Omnibus Management Act of 1998. This provision authorizes the NPS to withhold information from the public in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request concerning the nature and specific location of threatened, endangered, rare, or commercially valuable objects, or objects of cultural patrimony located in units of the National Park System, unless the Secretary determines that:(1) disclosure of the information would further the purposes of the unit of the National Park System in which the resource or object is located and would not create an unreasonable risk of harm, theft, or destruction of the resource or object, including individual organic or inorganic specimens; and (2) disclosure is consistent with other applicable laws protecting the resource or object.The NPS's interpretation of this section of the National Parks Omnibus Management Act is that the agency will withhold information about the nature and specific location of caves when the Service foresees that disclosure of the information would be harmful to an interest protected by an exemption under FOIA. (See NPS Management Policies (2001) § 1.7.3).
Information that could reveal "the nature and specific location" of a specific cave includes, but is not limited to, survey data, surface and subsurface maps, names of geographic features.
Lechuguilla Cave Protection Act of 1993
The Lechuguilla Cave Protection Act of 1993 created a cave protection zone (CPZ) around Lechuguilla Cave. Within the CPZ, access and the removal of cave resources may be limited or prohibited; existing leases may be cancelled with appropriate compensation; and lands are withdrawn from mineral entry.Cave and Karst Management Table of Contents | RM#77 Table of Contents