Writing a Cave Management Plan
[Adapted from Appendix Z, Board of Governor's Manual of the National Speleological Society]
Experienced managers know that in order to effectively manage something you must first have an understanding of its nature. In addition, you must have clear goals and objectives. A cave preserve management plan is no exception.
A cave preserve management plan servers several purposes. First, it serves to describe and document the cave resource. For this reason, a good management plan includes a description of the cave preserve and all its resources, both above and below ground, including history, geology, and biology. Was the cave used by aboriginal peoples? Was it mined for saltpeter or used as a gathering place? What are its geologic and hydrologic aspects? What life inhabits the cave and its surrounding lands?
Second, a management plan sets out the goals and objectives of the management group. Why is the organization managing the preserve? Is the cave primarily a recreational cave, or is it being managed to protect an endangered species? Are there historic artifacts or archaeological sites which must be protected? Should usage of the preserve be restricted in any way?
Third, the plan should provide information for those seeking access to the preserve. Will it be open at all times, or will access be controlled by permits or by a gate? Who can visit the preserve, and how do they obtain access? What can they do or not do on the preserve? The management plan consolidates all the basic information about the cave preserve so that both managers and visitors can find what they need to know about the cave preserve.
Finally, a thorough and well-written plan serves as a guide for future managers of the preserve. We won't be around to take care of it forever, and we need to record important information for those who come after us.
The outline below can serve as a guide and a starting point in writing a cave management plan. Since caves vary a great deal in their characteristics, different plans will place emphasis on different portions of the outline. By following this general model, however, you can develop a basic plan which can grow and change as your understanding of the cave and its unique attributes increases.
The outline has nine sections:
- History of the Preserve
- Access Policy
- Cave Management
- Surface Management
- Publicity Policy
- Future Plans
Each of these sections is discussed below. Remember: you can add new sections, combine or omit sections, change the titles, and modify this outline as you see fit. It's just a starting point - use it as a guide to develop an plan that fits your cave preserve and its unique aspects.
The Introduction is the first thing people will see when they look at your plan. It is very important that it be both clear and brief. It should identify the preserve and the management group, and state your intentions for the management of the cave. Most of your objectives for the preserve should be included. The nature of the managing organization and any necessary information about its operation and structure should be included, as well as contact information for the managers. The nature of the relationship between the managing organization and the preserve should be stated (does the group own the preserve, lease it, or manage it by agreement with the owner?)
2) HISTORY OF THE PRESERVE
This section should include a summary of the history of the cave and the land that it lies under. Items such as whether it was used for saltpeter mining, whether it was ever commercialized, and who the previous property owners were will be of interest. A description of the acquisition of the preserve may also be included. References to articles, books, and other publications or sources of information about the history of the cave are helpful to to researchers, users, and future managers.
Probably the most important aspect of a management plan is the listing of resources. This section should indicate what is significant about the preserve and why the cave is being managed. This section should be divided into two sub-sections: underground resources and surface resources.
Each sub-section should detail as many resources as possible, which may include the following:
You should be just as concerned with topics such as surface streams, roads, easements for utilities, and other such related items as you are with aspects of the cave itself. Remember - the preserve is more than just the cave. In each of these sub-sections you should list what should be done to protect and maintain these resources.
4) ACCESS POLICY
This section is one of the most important items of any cave management plan. In this section, you must list or describe any requirements that must be met by those who wish to visit the preserve. You should state whether the cave is open only at certain times of the year, open all year, or not at all. The potential is great for misunderstanding and hard feelings if the access policies are not clear, fair, and widely known.
Your management plan should reflect the fact that all cave preserves should be managed in such a way as to minimize the owner's and managing group's liability in case of accidents. The management plan should state that the cave or caves shall be managed in such ways as to qualify under state or local landowner liability exemption laws (recreational use statutes sometimes called RUS).
5) CAVE MANAGEMENT
When managing a cave, one must not assume that the management plan is effective. The cave should be monitored for degradation. The managers may evaluate the desirability and practicality of various monitoring strategies. The strategies may include, but are not limited to, photo monitoring, water quality monitoring, and periodic census of indicator species. In order for degradation to be noted, a baseline condition should be established as soon as possible.
If monitoring indicates degradation of the cave, revising the management plan to minimize degradation should be considered and acted on as appropriate.
6) SURFACE MANAGEMENT
This section should describe the organization's plans and goals for managing the land around the cave. It should include whether or not the committee will close off the road to the cave, or if a road will be constructed; whether the cave will be gated; if barricades or gates are to be installed on the road; what parking will be available and where; and whether or not camping and other surface uses of the preserve will be allowed. Because the surface has significant impact on the cave below, this section should also include discussion of topics such as possible erosion problems, water sources, disposal of human wastes, disposal of carbide, and plans for periodic trash pickup.
7) PUBLICITY POLICY
This section should discuss what types of publicity (if any) the committee will use to inform the general public about the management and use of the cave. You may wish to develop a program for the use of the public to educate them on the need for cave preservation. Or, if the cave is in need of extended protection, you may opt to try to keep the cave obscure and avoid publicity.
8) FUTURE PLANS
This section should include any plans you have for the future of the management group and the preserve (if any), what goals have been established, and how these goals will be realized. Be specific, and include a timeline with milestones and completion dates for any projects.
There may be other items not included in this outline which need to be listed in the management plan. You should feel free to include as many items of importance in this guideline as they feel are needed for the management of the preserve. This outline is not intended to be a strict guide. Rather, it is a starting point from which you can develop specific plans customized to the unique needs and characteristics of different caves.