2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM


KERBO, Ronal C., Geologic Resources Division, National Park Service, P.O. Box 25287, Denver, CO 80225-0287, ron_kerbo@nps.gov

The U.S. Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988 presents itself as a useful model for expanding geo-heritage sites to include caves around the world. While currently limited to the United States, the Act's implementing regulations includes guidance for evaluating the significance of caves; this guidance could be expanded to have broader applications internationally. The categories of criteria used to identify and list significant caves require that such caves possess one or more of the following features, characteristics, or values: (1) Geologic, Mineralogic, or Paleontologic, (2) Biotic, (3) Cultural, (4) Hydrologic, (5) Recreational, and (6) Educational or Scientific.

For far too many years cave managers and cave users, from recreational cavers to research scientists, have been focused almost exclusively on the hollow components of karstic systems. We have not been aggressive enough in developing strategies, guidelines or policies to manage, protect, conserve and interpret the overall cave/karst system and all of the attendant values and diverse resources associated with such systems. Any further development of criteria for evaluating caves to determine significance for inclusion on a geo-heritage list must be holistic in nature, including a way to quantify and evaluate caves as systems, whether karst or non-karstic. Caves should be understood as dynamic systems where the earth's surface and subsurface are intimately intertwined with all living things and systems.