Open Season for 2022 Caving Season Project Proposals

The BLM Roswell Field Office is now accepting project work and scientific proposals for the 2022 caving season for caves within the Roswell Field Office boundaries. The proposal format and criteria is located HERE. All proposals must be received by January 7, 2022.

2021 Fort Stanton Cave Update and other important Information!

The 2021 caving season was productive on several fronts. Here are some of the highlights. 
The beginning of the season started off by finding that Snowy River was dry, and we could plan some trips to accomplish work in that part of the cave. Conrad’s Passage was also drying up nicely, still sticky mud but easily passable. With the heavy rain that Lincoln County experienced from the beginning of May through August, Snowy River started to flow again in early July. By the end of October Snowy River stopped flowing. This period of flooding prevented many of the planned Snowy River trips from occurring this season. Entries for project work shifted to the historic section of Fort Stanton Cave. 

Dedicated gear: BLM has a complete dedicated gear cashe that most cavers are drawing from to go on trips into Fort Stanton Cave (FSC), while others have created their own personal dedicated gear stash. With all cavers using dedicated gear, the RFO was able to increase entries to FSC to 175 for 2021, 275 in 2022, and 350 in 2023. The implementation of the dedicated gear program greatly reduces the possible human introduction of Pd, the cause of White Nose Syndrome, to FSC and decreases the chance that it will be spread to other caves from FSC if it tests positive in the future. 

Trips beyond the NCA boundary: For the 2022 caving season, BLM has approved giving permits to teams wishing to explore beyond the NCA boundaries under private property. To receive a permit from BLM to explore beyond the NCA boundary, the trip leader must present BLM with a written permission from the private property owner(s) before issuance of a permit. This permission must include language to the effect that ALL data collected on the trip (photos, mapping data, logger data, etc.) WILL be shared with the BLM and other partners. A legal property description, the owners name and contact information must also be included. The team will also be covered by an insurance policy with the BLM named as an additionally covered entity. This insurance policy shall be submitted with the proposal asking to do the work. 

Evaporimeter: This project’s goal is to measure evaporation rates in FSC and particularly in Snowy River Passage. The Evaporimeter project started in 2020 with installing it at Inscription Rock as a test location. With testing complete and some minor modifications to the unit it was moved to a location at Turtle Junction. In October the batteries were changed out for the winter and data was downloaded. The first round of data is being analyzed. 

Data Logger maintenance: Data loggers from Turtle Junction to Snowy River North were exchanged in May. In October the data loggers at Turtle Junction were exchanged again. 

Magic Carpet maintenance: In May the first trip to do Magic Carpet maintenance was accomplished from Turtle Junction to just short of Finger Lake. This trip also was able to survey about 500 feet of passage in Capitan Caverns. A second trip was made in June to Black Rock Bypass to work on the changing 
stations at both ends and mark a trail through BRB. A magic carpet that had washed into the Snowy Spring Passage was recovered.

Mapping in Historic Section: The remapping of the Historic Section of FSC is almost complete with only a few trips remaining. 

Restoration: Three trips went to the area near the Lake Room to continue restoration of broken formations. Because this is slow work and the extent of the damage, this is a project that is going to take many more trips. 

There were several other projects that were accomplished during the season. I would like to thank all of the folks that volunteer directly to the BLM and those who volunteer through the expeditions mounted by the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project. 

For whatever its worth, NOAA’s long-range forecast for December through May 2022 calls for warmer temperatures and below normal precipitation in the SW. The forecast for February, March, and April is for warmer than normal and dryer than normal. If a mild and dryer winter does occur, then there is a good chance that caving will resume on Snowy River in May. The precipitation prediction for May through September 2022 is a return to normal. Given the 34 inches of precipitation in Lincoln County during the summer of 2021, I’m not sure if predictions are worth taking stock in. BLM will assess the situation as it progresses. 

In mid-April of 2022, a reconnaissance/assessment trip will occur to determine the condition of the Cave, the status of bat hibernation, and to recover data logger data from Snowy River, which will determine which trips will move forward.
 
The Roswell Field Office would like to see a variety of proposals for 2022. If Snowy River becomes flooded again, the focus of work will be in the historic part of the Cave. In the Historic part of the Cave, priority will be given to proposals that offer to cleanup old survey, trail assessments and rehab, and restoration. There will be a number of entries set aside for these types of trips. 

Trips that were not able to occur during the 2015-2021 caving seasons, due to flooding or being backup trips, will need to submit a short update to their approved proposal during the open proposal period. This update should have the same title as the original proposal, and contain a short statement about your desire to attempt the trip during the upcoming caving season and any updated information or trip details, including the new proposed trip date and any changes in personnel. These trips will be the first group of trips to be reviewed in filling out the roster of Snowy River trips. The Snowy River trips that were approved for 2015- 2021 have a high likelihood of going forward in 2022 and are considered pre-approved by the New Mexico Cave Management Team. However, they will be reviewed to see if they still fulfill BLM objectives for Fort Stanton Cave, or could be displaced by higher priority trips. 

If you are writing a proposal to do science in the cave, and you are not a subject matter expert, the BLM recommends that you have a subject matter expert work with you and co-author your proposal. If you anticipate needing to collect samples, please mention that you are also applying for a sample collection permit(s). 

New proposals for historic portions of the Cave and Snowy River will be reviewed by the BLM Cave Specialist. If the proposal is recommended to move forward in the process, it will then be passed onto the New Mexico Cave Management Team for their recommendations. The BLM Roswell Field Office Manager will be responsible for final approval on all proposals. 

PLEASE READ THE ENTIRE PROPOSAL CRITERIA SHEET! Take note of the email address in which to send the proposal. Please be sure to include ALL required information in your proposal. Failure to do so means that your proposal will not be considered. 

All proposals must be received by January 7, 2022. 

The proposal format and criteria are located HERE.

Contact Information

Knutt Peterson
Outdoor Recreation Planner - Cave & Karst Specialist

575-354-0052

knuttpet@blm.gov