Memorandum of Understanding Between The U.S. Department of Interior—National Park Service and The National Speleological Society

November 9, 1991
  1. Introduction

  2. Growing public awareness of the existence of cave resources on public lands administered by the National Park Service (NPS), combined with better access, more leisure time, and the desire for an unusual recreational experience, has contributed to increased pressure for use of these cave resources. While some lands in the National Park System were reserved by congress specifically because of the unique cave features which they contain, numerous caves which were not the primary reason for acquisition can be found in Park System lands. The NPS faces difficult management decisions with long term consequences - not only regarding the protection and proper use of undeveloped (or "wild") caves under its jurisdiction, but also relating to the extensive undeveloped passages found in caves which have been partially developed to allow easy access by the general public.

    The Federal Cave Resource Protection Act of 1988 mandates a heightened awareness and an intensified degree of management of cave resources by NPS land managers. These management decisions need to be based on a knowledge of the specific resources found in each cave, an awareness of the degree of difficulty it presents to visitor access, and an understanding of the user groups which can be expected to seek the experience of entering a wild cave.

    In the past, NPS has relied on volunteer assistance from members of the National Speleological Society (NSS) to provide manpower and expertise needed to explore, map, restore, interpret, and manage caves found on lands within the National Park System. Continued and improved management of these resources makes this type of volunteer assistance essential. In recognition of shared concerns and the benefits of cooperation, the NPS and the NSS have developed this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and mutually declare:

  3. Authority

  4. This MOU has been developed pursuant to the Act of August 25, 1916, 39 Stat. 535, as amended, and is for the purpose of encouraging future participation by members of the NSS in the inventory, management, scientific study, and protection of caves and cave resources found on lands within the National Park System. The MOU established procedures for the development of local and regional MOUs between the NPS and the NSS Internal Organizations (IOs), including its local chapters ("Grottos").

  5. Responsibilities and Procedures

    1. The NPS and the NSS mutually agree to develop resource-specific MOUs wherever these lead to improved understanding and/or management of cave resources on public lands under NPS jurisdiction. Examples of the types of projects an MOU could cover include, but are not limited to: (1) development of cave management plans; (2) inventory of cave locations and cave resources; (3) installation and maintenance of gates and signs; (4) monitoring of visitor use for compliance with management objectives; (5) conducting informational and educational programs; (6) providing administrative support for cave resource programs; (7) completing cave cleanup and restoration projects; and (8) conducting research on caves and cave resources.
    2. Development of these specific MOUs will be the responsibility of individual NPS land managers and the individual NSS IOs. The NPS recognizes the independent nature of the NSS IOs and will not hold the Society responsible for an IOs non-participation, lack of compliance, or other actions taken under an MOU.
    3. Prior to the development of a specific MOU, the authorized officers or representatives from all organizations involved must make the determination that the following conditions are met:
      1. The NSS 10 must:

        1. Have the interest, capability, and resources needed to complete the proposed tasks or projects.
        2. Agree, during the period of the MOU, to abide by the terms of Executive Order 11246 on non-discrimination and not discriminate against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
        3. Ensure that all participants:

          (1) Abide by the directives and goals of the NPS as they relate to the specific area to be affected.

          (2) Follow all reasonable procedures to minimize risk to themselves and to other participants.

          (3) Have the necessary training, experience, and equipment so that they may reasonably be expected to perform safely the tasks assigned to them.

        4. Develop, with the assistance of the NPS, a reasonable plan to deal with accidents that may occur during performance of the MOU.
        5. Provide to the NPS, in either a proprietary or non-proprietary form, as agreed in advance, a written report of all activities, maps, and other documents which result from its work under the MOU. Further documentation and procedures resulting from the MOU, and their proprietary nature, will be defined in each specific MOU.
      2. The NPS through its authorized representatives will:
        1. Monitor and supervise the activities covered by the MOU.
        2. Provide all reasonable assistance to the NSS 10 to ensure ease of access to the specific cave resources covered by the MOU and lend aid and assistance in the development—and, if necessary, implementation—of a safety/rescue plan for MOU projects.
        3. Hold as proprietary and confidential all materials submitted by the 10 in that form.
    4. The NPS and the NSS recognize that an MOU cannot be used to grant any organization the exclusive use right to any cave(s).
    5. The MOU developed between the NPS and the NSS 10 will:
      1. Provide adequate time for project completion.
      2. Describe the actions required of the Service and of the 10, including any personnel requirements, expected products, and reports.
      3. Define financial responsibility for all parties involved.
      4. Address arbitration of disputes and amending or terminating the MOU.
      5. Specify terms of supervision, the monitoring of work performed, and the standards to be used in evaluating compliance.
      6. Make reasonable provisions for safety, both of the human participants and of the cave resources which may be affected by the project.
      7. Specify ownership (proprietary or non-proprietary) of any inventory, maps, or other types of documents and information generated through work or research done under the MOU.
  6. Coordination

  7. In furtherance of the goals of this MOU, and to ensure improved coordination and cooperation, both the NPS and the NSS each agree to designate a representative ("Liaison") to serve as the primary contact person on cave-related issues and projects taking place under the terms of this MOU. The NPS liaison will assist the NSS in obtaining access to lands administered by the Service and advise the NSS liaison of opportunities for cave-related activities and of relevant changes in NPS policies and procedures. The NSS liaison will help the Service to identify NSS IOs and individuals who might be interested in specific projects and encourage active participation by NSS members.

  8. Signatures

  9. The agreements and conditions outlined in the MOU become effective upon signature by representatives from each organization. This MOU can be changed at any time with regard to either the NSS or the NPS, by mutual agreement of the organizations involved.