Monday, September 09, 2013

Resource management alternative for Fort Stanton Cave examined

A protest period was opened last week by Bureau of Land Management officials on an amendment to the Resource Management Plan/Environmental Assessment for Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area. The protest period will end Sept. 22. The national conservation area encompasses 24,876 acres, plus 246 acres covering the Rio Bonito Acquired Lands Tract and a grazing allotment of 80 acres. Four alternatives were examined by agency staff, with Alternate A selected as the preferred plan. Under that alternative, all public lands in the Fort Stanton NCA would be closed to commercial disposal of mineral materials. The agency would institute fees for designated developed campgrounds under specific conditions that include a campground business plan is created in compliance with the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act of 2005. Agency officials also would consider reestablishing a campground in the Upper Rio Bonito Canyon, if suitable access could be provided and a suitable location more than 100 feet from the stream or riparian area is available and impacts to cultural resources can be avoided, according to information from the agency's report. The number of visitors to Fort Stanton Cave would continue to be limited through the use of cave permits, keeping with up to 20 percent of the 398 recreation cave permits available possibly issued for commercial use. Agency officials would not recommend any rivers or river segments within the NCA to be designated as part of the National Wild Scenic Rivers System. Staff would consider constructing portals for year-around access to the Snowy River Passage calcite formation of the cave, which has drawn international attention. Overhead structures with a height greater than 15 feet would be buried or prohibited, including small wind turbines, to reduce visual impacts in the NCA...more  

The RMP amendment is posted online here.

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