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Cave Management

Although the Alberta Speleological Society does not own or otherwise control any caves, we do maintain a high interest in their protection and, in most cases, continued free access to those caves on public lands. We believe that federal and provincial government agencies can make better management decisions if they utilize our special knowledge of cave resources.

After the Alberta Speleological Society was formed in 1968, initial interest and activity on cave management centred on those caves close to Calgary that were known to the public. Regular cleanups and group guiding at Canyon Creek Ice Cave were slowed and finally suspended when the resident ranger closed the access road. High public awareness and visitation to Plateau Mountain Ice Cave resulted in the Alberta Speleological Society supporting an Alberta Forest Service proposal to gate the cave, which was accomplished in 1972. In 1975 the Alberta Speleological Society opposed the routing of a segment of the proposed Great Divide Trail over the Ptolemy/Andy Good Pass; the trail concept died five years later when the sponsoring GDT Association became inactive. In 1979 the Alberta Speleological Society requested the support of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists in opposing a proposal to quarry a limestone ridge near Cleft Cave at Crowsnest Pass, which was also a test of the province's Zone 1 Prime Protection designation.

The 1979 and 1980 the Alberta Speleological Society wrote to the Province of BC expressing concern over its proposed Cave Management Policy, and periodically has supported BC cavers in their own battles over cave conservation.

Concerns over public safety at Castleguard Cave resulted in Parks Canada installing an ineffective gate in 1975 and creating restrictive legislation in 1973, 1975 and 1978 that was never enforced. In 1982 the Alberta Speleological Society participated in the Four Mountain Parks Planning Process and, although the legislation was not repealed, caving was recognized as a legitimate sport within national parks and commitments to work with the Alberta Speleological Society on cave management issues was achieved in 1986. Although a new, effective gate was installed without consultation on Castleguard in 1990, permits for skilled cavers became easier to obtain as relations between the Alberta Speleological Society and Parks Canada thawed. An Alberta Speleological Society proposal to provide Parks Canada with information on national parks caves resulted in Jon Rollins’ Masters thesis on cave management and a cave inventory in 1992.

Parks Canada proposals for Nakimu Caves and the Cougar Valley have oscillated between total area closure and grandiose plans for development, at one point including an aerial tram up the valley. The Alberta Speleological Society has consistently advocated retaining a wilderness setting while allowing self-propelled visitation by competent parties, and is not in agreement with the 1995 ‘user-pay’ policy where a fee is charged although no facilities are provided.

The existence of the well-decorated Rat’s Nest Cave was kept secret until the early 1980s, even amongst Alberta Speleological Society membership, due to its proximity to a paved road. There was mixed support for the provincial historic site designation and gating in 1986, but at present, the Alberta Speleological Society supports the concept of paid guided tours in Rats’ Nest Cave.

In 1994 the Alberta Speleological Society initiated contacts with the provincial agencies with recommendations for low-key management at Cadomin Cave, including informational signage, monitoring and continued free access. Periodic cleanups and continuing discussions with the province led to the Alberta Speleological Society becoming official Stewards of the cave, and in 1999 were awarded an Outstanding Group Steward Award by the province. The creation of Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park gave the cave much-needed protection, and the Alberta Speleological Society continue to take an active role in the formulation of management plans for the park. Similar discussions at Crowsnest Pass resulted in 1994 trailhead signage and logbook, cave use records, and a now-dormant proposal for provincial park status.

Rumors of proposed helicopter tours of the Small River Karst resulted in proposals for a highly restrictive ecological reserve, or inclusion into Mt. Robson Provincial Park. The Alberta Speleological Society preferred the latter, but instead the area was formed into Small River Caves Provincial Park .

In 2009, the Alberta Speleological Society joined forces with the Alberta Fish and Wildlife to monitor caves for the appearance of White Nose Syndrome in local bat populations.

Today the Alberta Speleological Society liaises with mountain rescue organizations, is receptive to public inquiries, provides guidance on cave etiquette, safety, and the club’s organization and beliefs, and maintains this web page as a service to cavers and non-cavers alike.