Geocaching in sensitive conservation areas in Canberra

I posted the following note on my cache GC4JKG4 in Bottom Pinnacle just outside The Pinnacle Nature Reserve:

I will soon be archiving this listing and removing the cache now that I know how much disturbance is being caused by caching activities and the proximity of this cache to known habitat of the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard.

I will also be encouraging other owners of caches in The Pinnacle to review any caches hidden amongst rocks including GC5ECF6.

I still support geocaching in Canberra Nature Park and our local reserves but we do have to be sensitive to the conservation of native flora and fauna and I’ve seen how the search for some caches results in dozens and dozens of rocks being disturbed and left overturned which is not ideal.

I think geocaching is a fun recreational activity and encourages people to get out and explore the outdoors and visit areas of their surrounding bush they might not otherwise see. Like all recreational activities including walking, cycling and horse-riding there will be an impact on the environment (even when a Leave No Trace ethic is promoted) but we need to balance conservation values with social and recreational.

The ACT Parks and Conservation Service articulated the following vision for Canberra Nature Park in the Canberra Nature Park Management Plan 1999:

An integrated, connected system of diverse nature reserves throughout urban Canberra managed to conserve native flora, fauna and habitat, and to provide opportunities for appreciation, recreation, education and research consistent with protecting the natural and cultural heritage, and landscape values of the area.

The responsibilities of the PCS also included in the same document “support of nature-based tourism”.

If conservation were paramount then no recreational activities would be permitted in the Park, including geocaching, walking your dog or taking photos of orchids.

For several years the NSW Government outright banned geocaching in national parks, however they’ve since developed a policy and negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding between National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW) and Geocaching Association of NSW that permits the placement of some caches with consultation and approval.

Hopefully we can work together amongst ourselves to identify caches that are resulting in inordinate damage to the landscape and habitat (though negligible compared to making BMX tracks and jumps, littering or damage resulting from unsustainably large populations of kangaroos) so the sport here doesn’t end up requiring heavy regulation and government approval at a per-cache level.

The Geocacher’s Creed mentions:

When seeking a cache, practice “Lift, Look, Replace” – put all stones or logs back where you found them.

Now I am better informed I don’t think that the above advice is sufficient. No stones or logs should be regularly disturbed in the course of our sport of geocaching, especially in conservation areas including Canberra Nature Park. I don’t know how we can achieve that, but it’s something we should be thinking about and aim for to minimise environmental disturbance.

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One thought on “Geocaching in sensitive conservation areas in Canberra”

  1. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation is actually promoting geocaching:

    http://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/events/conservation-week/competitions/national-geocaching-challenge/about-the-competition/

    They do have some guidelines:

    • Respect the natural environment. Keep plant and animal life safe from harm.
    • Keep on tracks.
    • Leave only footprints.
    • DOC caches will not be buried, be placed off the track, or nailed/drilled into trees.
    • DOC supports “Cache In Trash Out (CITO)”. Take a rubbish bag along with you and pick up any rubbish. Even this small act can make a huge difference.

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