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Cave Management and Security Meeting with Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
Southwest Region, March 13, 2007
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Richard Stark of the Oklahoma ES Field Office and Steve Hensley, manager of the Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge, met with staff from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (CN) regarding cave management and security issues.  The CN owns 45,000 acres in the Ozark Highlands Ecoregion of Oklahoma.  This is a region of karst terrain and includes highly unique and sensitive habitats such as caves.  Numerous caves occur on Cherokee Nation lands.  We discussed existing Cooperative Agreements between the CN and Service for certain tracts of land and the need to develop additional agreements for other specific tracts.  These agreements allow the Service access to, across, over, and upon certain tracts of land that contain or are adjacent to important cave sites that provide habitat for federally-listed and other rare cave species.  The agreements also provide the Service the right to construct gates and fences to control access to the cave sites.  The CN and Service also agreed to pursue completion of a standard "Authorization to Enter Tribal Property" form that will ensure that all pertinent parties are aware of the date and location of proposed cave trips, the purpose of the trip, and the participants involved.  Other topics discussed include the CN's recently enacted Hunting and Fishing Code which grants tribal members access to tribal properties for hunting and fishing purposes.  Increased human activity on tribal property could lead to increased human entry into and disturbance of caves on tribal property.  The Tribal Wildlife Grant Program was discussed as a potential source of funds for cave gate construction should human disturbance and vandalism at cave sites increase. 

Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov



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