Hoosier National Forest caves reopening for summer months

Contact(s): Andrea Crain, Public Affairs Officer (812) 275-5987

Bedford, IN - (January 25, 2017) - In 2009, the Hoosier National Forest (NF) implemented a year-round cave closure order as part of an effort to combat the spread of white-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease first observed in 2006 that has killed millions of bats in the U.S. and Canada. While WNS is still a serious issue, especially in western states that still have potential for additional spread, Hoosier NF biologists have determined that since the fungus has now spread throughout Indiana, our neighboring states and beyond, a year-round closure of caves to the public is not an effective means of protecting bat populations on the Hoosier NF.

In order to protect hibernating bat populations, Hoosier NF caves will still be closed to all public entry annually between September 1st to April 30th. However, recreationists are now permitted to enter and explore caves from May 1st through August 31st each year. Anyone who violates the seasonal closure may be fined up to $5,000 or face imprisonment of no more than six months.

All cave explorers are asked to remember proper cave etiquette and safety. Caves are inherently dangerous environments, with many hazards people may not be accustomed to dealing with. Remember: Never go caving alone; tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return; dress in layers of clothing and sturdy shoes; carry appropriate equipment, including multiple light sources and a first aid kit; and don’t forget food and water. For more caving safety information, please visit https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go/cave-safety. Planning to visit caves outside the Hoosier NF? Learn more about how you can help prevent the spread of WNS to caves not yet exposed to the fungus by visiting  https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/topics/decontamination.

This seasonal cave closure order is in addition to other provisions in the Federal Code of Regulations and other Forest Orders. To view all Forest Orders for the Hoosier National Forest, please visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/hoosier/alerts-notices

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Forest Service’s Eastern Region includes twenty states in the Midwest and East, stretching from Maine, to Maryland, to Missouri, to Minnesota. There are 17 national forests and one national tallgrass prairie in the Eastern Region. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/R9.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/.



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