Cabezon Creek WSA, NM
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Cave & Karst Program

 Image of a young caver in Parks Ranch Cave, NM














An exciting world of wonder, waiting for exploration is hidden beneath the surface of many Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands. Eleven BLM States contain caves and karst lands, the BLM manages over 1,000 caves in these States.

The BLM is a multiple-use land management agency providing approximately 258 million acres of lands for use by the American public. Caves environments and their resources are fragile and easily disturbed. As such, there are many activities that could have adverse impacts on cave and karst environments – even recreational and scientific use of caves can cause undesirables impacts.  The BLM uses various management techniques to help balance land use activities and the protection of the nation’s fragile cave and karst resources. Conservation also is a key component of the caves and karst management.   

Special Management Issues
Because the BLM is a multiple-use land management agency there may be conflicts between the desired management of cave and karst resources and other uses. The BLM uses various management practices to avoid potential conflicts for such economic activities as oil and gas well development, timber harvesting, and grazing.  The primary approach is three-fold:
  • Detection – The detection phase may use several different techniques; field examinations, known data files, satellite images, and geophysical techniques such as natural potential, induced resistivity, and ground penetrating radar;
  • Avoidance – The avoidance phase may be as easy as moving a project or activity to eliminate conflicts (e.g., roads, power lines, and facilities may be moved to avoid construction problems and protect cave and karst resources); and
  • Mitigation – Mitigation measures may be applied to lessen any impacts that can not be avoided (i.e. Berms may be constructed along roads to avoid spills or runoff from entering caves and ground water recharge points).

Hot Topics

White Nose Syndrome in bats


Cave Permits / Principles 
Many BLM caves are open for public recreation and for scientific research. Access to some caves requires a free permit or registration. 
  • Recreational use of BLM caves is managed by the local BLM Field Offices. 
  • Some caves require permits and some do not. Generally this is determined based on the fragility and vulnerability of the cave resources. 
  • Certain caves may have seasonal closures due to bat roosts, either maternity roosts or hibernacula. 
  • Scientific and research use of caves requires a written proposal explaining the purpose of the research, who will be conducting it, how long it is expected to take, if it will require any collection of specimens, and what kind of reporting will be done.