Monday, May 12, 2008

Iowa DNR posts geocaching rules and permit form

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has just posted a web page outlining its geocaching "rules and regulations." (I always love that term. It makes me think, "Which ones are the rules and which ones are the regulations?") Anyway, after a couple years of informal geocaching policy which instructed geocachers to obtain permission from the local DNR manager before placing a geocache on DNR-managed land, there is now a formal process. From what I can tell, there are three major changes:
1. The process now includes a permit application (available at the DNR web site linked above).
2. All permits expire annually on March 31.
3. The cache container must be clearly marked on the outside with "Geocache" in block letters no smaller than one half inch in size and the name of the geocache.

One very nice aspect of the new DNR web page is that they include a link to Staff Contact Information: Park E-Mail and Phone List -- a very helpful tool for geocachers seeking information on placing a cache.

How will these changes affect my review process for caches on DNR-managed land? For the past few years I have asked geocachers who submit such caches whether they obtained permission from the local DNR land manager, and if so, to post the name and contact information for that person in either the description or in a reviewer note on their cache page. From now on, I am going to ask if you have obtained the required DNR permit. I may also refer you to the DNR web page to make sure you're aware of the March 31 expiration date.

Once they are approved, I will not be policing these caches annually to enforce the March 31 expiration date. That's an Iowa DNR rule and not part of the guidelines, so the annual expiration and removal of these caches will be a matter left up to the DNR and the cache owner. I couldn't enforce that rule if I wanted to. It would simply be too much for one non-paid person to keep track of.

It will be interesting to see what effect this formal policy will have on geocache hiding on DNR-managed land. Will it encourage more caches there, or will it discourage them? And what effect will the annual March 31 expiration have? Will cache hiding tail off in the first quarter of each year and then explode with pent-up placements after March 31? I'd like to know what you think. How will this change affect you?


WindChill said...

Doesnt look like it changed from the draft policy and permit that have been floating around for a couple of years.

"...permits expire annually on March 31. After that date, the geocache must be moved and a new location permit issued.." This part shouldnt really be an issue. At least for the one cache I have in a state park, I just move it a hundred feet or so and submit an updated permit.

How will it affect placements...guess that depends on how many people were already following the draft policy.

Tom said...

IMHO, the DNR policy is Dead on Arrival. They have finally formally recognized the sport, and even show a good understanding of terminology, and then comes Rule (or is it Regulation) #3 - only ONE to THREE caches in each state park. Ridiculous! I guess it's their way of keeping geocachers out of parks without issuing an outright ban.
At a Kent Park Geo 201 a couple of years ago, Brad Cronk (C_dog) presented the Johnson County officials with a quite scholarly (it impressed me!) study of "cache density" and what allowable limits might be per square mile. The naturalist seemed to understand it, but the problem remains some of the park managers. I should point out that Rule/Regulation #3 is not a departure from current policy - it is current policy. It just shows a misunderstanding of the sport. Geocaches and land protection can and do co-exist, and some park managers simply go by their own limits. As I mentioned in an earlier subject post, the smaller the park, the smaller the park ranger's mind. And that's not being said subjectively; that's objective, having successfully placed caches in Mines of Spain S.P.(2), both Bellvue S.P. sites(1 each), Wildcat Den S.P.(2), a number of county-managed state properties and numerous county properties. Oh yeah, and a few guardrails:)
Truthfully, I believe there is a beneficial, symbiotic relationship in that increased park usage by us and others probably leads to increased job security for park managers should park survival ever be tied to usage and number of visitors. And, I do support permits, especially when handled as quickly and as well as the Corps of Engineers system does.

welch said...

Doesn't seem to be a change from anything its been the past several years. Only thing I see possiably happening is that some of the relaxed rangers/managers being more strict in sticking to the rules. Mainly I mean the 3 cache limit, since some of the parks closer to large cities seem to have more than supposeldly allowed. The other is having a new permit by March 31... I've sent in the paperwork (renewing) as late as the end of April before. I wonder if that will be a problem in the future?

I've sometimes wondered why 1-3 was used to begin with. Best reasoning I can come up with cost of Ranger time. When the draft policy came out it there was a copy of a committee summary/report. Don't remember the exact wording but basically, the committee had considered charging a fee for permits, but didn't expect the fee would pay for the cost of setting up and running such a system (ie it wouldn't pay for itself). With a park having at most 3 forms to deal with shouldn't take much time. While if they have to spend March checking 30 permits in their park, thats a lot more time consuming. And I would assume more tempting as a revenue source.