Forum: Questions And Answers About Geocaching
Topic: Geocaching in National Wildlife Refuges
started by: briansnat

Posted by briansnat on Nov. 22 2003,6:19 am
This was sent to the folks at geocaching.com. I don't think it applies just to them, so I thought everyone here should be aware of it. I'd hate to see anybody get fined.

Quote
From: (name withheld)
Subject: GeoCaching on National Wildlife Refuges
Date: Thu, 13 Nov 2003 07:41:06 -0500

This email will serve as notice to your organization regarding geocaching on federal lands, specifically lands owned or leased by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  This office has received information that individuals associated with the act of geocaching have been placing and searching for caches on National Wildlife Refuges throughout the United States.

The placement of any object on a National Wildlife Refuge is a violation of several Federal regulations including the following:
16USC668dd, 50CFR 27.93, Abandonment of Property
16USC668dd, 50 CFR26.21a, Trespass
16USC668dd 50CFR 27.63 Search for and removal of other valued objects
16USC668dd 50 CFR 27.97 Private Operations
Other violations of federal law may apply.

The maximum penalty for each specific violation per person is up to $5000.00 and or 6 months in jail.  The maximum penalty for a corporation involved in the violation is up to $100,000.00 and or 1year in jail per offense.

In addressing your website you identify the National Park Service as an area which is not approved for your activity.  The National Park Service adjoins the US Fish and Wildlife Service within the Department of the Interior and has similar restrictions as to geocaching.  This communication will serve as notice to your organization that the activity known as geocaching is not permitted on National Wildlife Refuges and is a violation of Federal law.  Federal Officers have begun prosecuting individuals
involved in geocaching on National Wildlife Refuges which results in a permanent Federal criminal record following conviction in a Federal court. In the interest of protecting individuals who are being mislead by erroneous information I strongly suggest you update your website to reflect the US Fish and Wildlife Service owned and leased lands as areas not to be used for geocaching.

Law Enforcement Specialist (name withheld)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Office of Refuge Law Enforcement
4401 N.Fairfax Drive
Arlington, Va 22203
Ph- (number withheld)



Posted by PC Medic on Nov. 22 2003,8:22 am
Your sharing of information (especially of this nature) is welcomed by all. I have seen this thread over there (and the other it references) and while I don't have evidence at this time to say it is not true, It contradicts other information I have seen and received. This raises questions at the very least.

First, I can not believe that Jeremy himself would not respond to such a notice, nor make comment in his own forums. I also find it disturbing that the official from Groundspeak that did respond ends with :
*** "there is no purpose in attempting to debate the merits of geocaching, we will suggest to our community that they address this and other related issues through the proper political means."***

Isn't his like saying, Hey folks, thanks for your premium membership fees but the wolves are at the door so you are on your own now!

I also think it would be in the interst of the sport in general (not to mention GC's members) had they posted the name of the official that sent the communication. 1) there is no reason to remove it 2) It inhibits their ability to make contact in a reasonable time frame to protect their rights to casual use of public land (seeing as the mayor of their "community" apparently has no desire to stand with them.

I am also curious as this broad a restriction is in complete conflict with the current view of the U.S. BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT. In fact, they have for the second year in a row determined geocaching to be acceptable on BLM lands (within the guide lines of the respective areas of course.
More on this can be found < in this memo >.

I can only hope that this is something more than it appears to be. We have not yet received any such communication from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (and we may), or from any of the other park sevice directors we work with.

In the mean time, it is our suggestion that all geocachers should take notice to this posting from briansnat. I would also recommend compliance on your part as rebellion would do no more than hurt the geocaching community. I will say that if and when Navicache.com does receive such notice we will obviously cooperate until such time changes are made. I can also tell you that we will confirm, and protest such a broad restriction, and provide those interested with any information available to us to do the same.

Posted by Volvo Man on Nov. 22 2003,5:01 pm
Firstly, let me say that I agree that until such time as this has been properly addressed and investigated, the community should refrain from activities contrary to the notice.

I'm no legal expert, but reading through the statutes listed, I notice a probable contradiction, namely abandonment of property and search and removal of other valued items. surely if it's going to be searched for, then it is not abandoned. Also,  if it is abandonned, isn't removal a public service? although removal is not the aim of geocaching, I guess in technical terms, if you trade, you are removing something. In the latter statute, a micro TNLNSL would not necessarily be an infraction of this.

I just think it's kind of Ironic that basically they are saying, You cannot put caches here, but if you do, you cannot remove them either. It would also imply they may prosecute a hider who has left a cache on their land previously, if he returns to remove it in order to comply with this notice.

I'm not 100% clear on the wildlife refuge lands, is it forbidden for the public to enter them at all? if the public are allowed casual use of the land, then trespass would not be a valid issue.

It is however fairly obvious that whoever drafted this notice did not research the NPS position on geocaching, as I have seen today in another thread, it is permissible with the appropriate permission from the local rangers. I have also seen many mentions of NPS & state parks allowing geocaching if the proper permits are applied for and granted, although I have not seen examples of those permits having been applied for, with the exception of the thread I saw here.

Also, ironically, GC.com would fall under the banner of private operations, but I should think that navicache would not, as no subscriptions are collected from users here.

Posted by PC Medic on Nov. 22 2003,6:07 pm
Quote (Volvo Man @ Nov. 22 2003,7:01 pm)
It is however fairly obvious that whoever drafted this notice did not research the NPS position on geocaching, as I have seen today in another thread, it is permissible with the appropriate permission from the local rangers. I have also seen many mentions of NPS & state parks allowing geocaching if the proper permits are applied for and granted, although I have not seen examples of those permits having been applied for, with the exception of the thread I saw here.

You maks some good points but where the individuals research is concerned you need to remember the NPS, State Parks and NWR's are all seperate.
Posted by welch on Nov. 22 2003,8:01 pm
Quote (Volvo Man @ Nov. 22 2003,6:01 pm)
I'm not 100% clear on the wildlife refuge lands, is it forbidden for the public to enter them at all? if the public are allowed casual use of the land, then trespass would not be a valid issue.

Yes, the public is allowed some of them. It depends on the specific area, and what its trying preserve and how. Some areas even allow hunting and fishing.
Quote
From < http://refuges.fws.gov/faqs/hunting.html >
Hunting, trapping and fishing are considered by many to be a legitimate, traditional recreational use of renewable natural resources....
As practiced on refuges, hunting, trapping and fishing do not pose a threat to the wildlife populations, and in some instances, are actually necessary for sound wildlife management. For example, deer populations will often grow too large for the refuge habitat to support.


I guess if you leave something longer than 24hours it becomes their property, and you can't remove it, it maybe be valuable  :grinnin

Posted by Volvo Man on Nov. 23 2003,12:03 am
Quote (welch @ Nov. 23 2003,3:01 am)
Yes, the public is allowed some of them. It depends on the specific area, and what its trying preserve and how. Some areas even allow hunting and fishing.
Quote
From < http://refuges.fws.gov/faqs/hunting.html >
Hunting, trapping and fishing are considered by many to be a legitimate, traditional recreational use of renewable natural resources....
As practiced on refuges, hunting, trapping and fishing do not pose a threat to the wildlife populations, and in some instances, are actually necessary for sound wildlife management. For example, deer populations will often grow too large for the refuge habitat to support.


I guess if you leave something longer than 24hours it becomes their property, and you can't remove it, it maybe be valuable  :grinnin

Ah HA!!

There we have it, their own website condones Geocaching. We go HUNTING for the Cache, and when we find it, we go FISHING in it for trades & travel bugs.  :tungue2

As for there being no threat to the wildlife population from hunting, have they asked the wildlife? I'm pretty sure they would feel threatened by hunting.

Posted by Cracker7M on Nov. 23 2003,6:37 am
Quote (Volvo Man @ Nov. 23 2003,2:03 am)
Quote (welch @ Nov. 23 2003,3:01 am)
Yes, the public is allowed some of them. It depends on the specific area, and what its trying preserve and how. Some areas even allow hunting and fishing.
Quote
From < http://refuges.fws.gov/faqs/hunting.html >
Hunting, trapping and fishing are considered by many to be a legitimate, traditional recreational use of renewable natural resources....
As practiced on refuges, hunting, trapping and fishing do not pose a threat to the wildlife populations, and in some instances, are actually necessary for sound wildlife management. For example, deer populations will often grow too large for the refuge habitat to support.


I guess if you leave something longer than 24hours it becomes their property, and you can't remove it, it maybe be valuable  :grinnin

Ah HA!!

There we have it, their own website condones Geocaching. We go HUNTING for the Cache, and when we find it, we go FISHING in it for trades & travel bugs.  :tungue2

As for there being no threat to the wildlife population from hunting, have they asked the wildlife? I'm pretty sure they would feel threatened by hunting.

O-oookkk....SO, as long as you stay within the areas that hunting, fishing and trapping are allowed in, how in the H@LL can they cite you for Tresspassing?

Also, the paragraph that outlines the fines and penalties for geocaching, and the fact that they " have already started prosecuting", and this seems to be the first public release that caching is NOT allowed, makes this seem to me like some uppity, high-up official in the system is just flexing his nuts....

In a way, I hope this IS the case....It seems that one misled official can be either worked around, or once they have left office, a case can be made to a replacement.
If this is the system-wide stance, then we really have problems... :(

This type of response is what I am afraid will happen in other departments, unless we (as an organized community), take the first step to open dialogs with these types of officials....BEFORE they figure out what caching is on their own and make knee-jerk reactions to it...

Posted by axcion on Nov. 29 2003,4:52 am
From < http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/retrieve.html >



[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 50, Volume 2]
[Revised as of October 1, 2002]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
[CITE: 50CFR27.93]

[Page 153]

                   TITLE 50--WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES

CHAPTER I--UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE
                         INTERIOR--(Continued)

PART 27--PROHIBITED ACTS--Table of Contents

                Subpart I--Other Disturbing Violations

Sec. 27.93  Abandonment of property.

   Abandoning, discarding, or otherwise leaving any personal property
in any national wildlife refuge is prohibited.


[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 50, Volume 2]
[Revised as of October 1, 2002]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
[CITE: 50CFR26.21]

[Page 142]

                   TITLE 50--WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES

CHAPTER I--UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE
                         INTERIOR--(Continued)

PART 26--PUBLIC ENTRY AND USE--Table of Contents

                        Subpart B--Public Entry

Sec. 26.21  General trespass provision.


   (a) No person shall trespass, including but not limited to entering,
occupying, using, or being upon, any national wildlife refuge, except as
specifically authorized in this subchapter C or in other applicable
Federal regulations.
   (b) No unconfined domestic animals, including but not limited to
dogs, hogs, cats, horses, sheep and cattle, shall be permitted to enter
upon any national wildlife refuge or to roam at large upon such an area,
except as specifically authorized under the provisions of Sec. 26.34,
Sec. 27.91 or Sec. 29.2 of this subchapter C.



[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 50, Volume 2]
[Revised as of October 1, 2002]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
[CITE: 50CFR27.63]

[Page 152]

                   TITLE 50--WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES

CHAPTER I--UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE
                         INTERIOR--(Continued)

PART 27--PROHIBITED ACTS--Table of Contents

    Subpart F--Disturbing Violations: Against Nonwildlife Property

Sec. 27.63  Search for and removal of other valued objects.

   (a) No person shall search for buried treasure, treasure trove,
valuable semi-precious rocks, stones, or mineral specimens on national
wildlife refuges unless authorized by permit or by provision of this
subchapter C.
   (b) Permits are required for archeological studies on national
wildlife refuges in accordance with the provisions of this subchapter C.


[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 50, Volume 2]
[Revised as of October 1, 2002]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
[CITE: 50CFR27.97]

[Page 154]

                   TITLE 50--WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES

CHAPTER I--UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE
                         INTERIOR--(Continued)

PART 27--PROHIBITED ACTS--Table of Contents

                Subpart I--Other Disturbing Violations

Sec. 27.97  Private operations.

   Soliciting business or conducting a commercial enterprise on any
national wildlife refuge is prohibited except as may be authorized by
special permit.



:rock: :rock:

Posted by PC Medic on Nov. 29 2003,6:12 am
While they might have you on the abandonement of property (Sec. 27.93) some of the others are long shots at best and stray from their (obvious) original intended purpose. Especially the tresspass part. If the particular land area is open to the public for hiking, bird watching and other activities then I IMHO hardly see any case for tresspass against those submitting "virtual' caches.

Other than that, do as they say until such time rules can be changed.

Of course you could always disguise your cache as an oil rig.
Seems these days the government will let you stick them just about anywhere.  :grinnin



Posted by DustyJacket on Nov. 29 2003,8:27 am
Hmmmm.......
First came birdhouse caches.  Now oil rig caches.

I like it.  have to get the welding rig out...........

Posted by Renegade Knight on Dec. 09 2003,7:18 pm
Even abandonment of property is a stretch for the simple fact that it's not abandoned.  Though there is always that letter of the law.

Mostly the letter is a shotgun approach.  Someone decides they don't want caching.  They ask the legal department to zip out a letter.  The lawer looks up every law that might apply and mentions a penalty or two and how bad it will be for the person recieving the letter if they do not comply and send it off.  A job well done.

Well that was Deja Vu, I must of said that somewhere else also...

Posted by Volvo Man on Dec. 12 2003,12:00 am
That letter almost sounds like a disgruntled ex-cacher using his position to make a point. I've seen a couple of posts of a similar nature on gc.com (before they got the letter), someone's had enough of geocaching for some reason, probably got some caches disapproved or something, and bites back.

ya never know, it does happen.

Posted by TundraChief on Dec. 13 2003,8:58 am
To the folks in the FWS, their refuges are sanctuaries.  Most of the ones I met are so committed they would guard them with their lives.  Got to hand them that.  I worked with them for over thirty years and have a lot of respect for the way they do business.  Even so, their law enforcement people have a different mind-set than most of the wildlife folk.  They go by the rules and only by the rules.  Incidentally, they write the Code of Federal Regulations.  Additions are prepared by the respective staffs, reviewed and posted in the Federal Register by the agency, and then after a period of time, without a successful contest, become law.  "Then, we live by the law."
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