Celebrating Five Achievement-Packed Years for Fort Stanton Snowy River Cave NCA
This amazing National Conservation Area (NCA) was designated on March 30th, 2009 as part of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, which also permanently established the National Conservation Lands. The Fort Stanton Cave is a significant natural, cultural and historical resource located in the south-central part of New Mexico. The area is stewarded by the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project, a long-established and dedicated group—and member of the CLF Friends Grassroots Network—whose main focus is the protection and scientific documentation of the cave system and its associated resources.
The Fort Stanton Cave Study Project has numerous achievements to its credit in the five years since the area became part of the National Conservation Lands. In 2013, the group received the International Union of Speleology Exploration team award, which is only presented every four years. The award was largely a result of the challenging mapping and exploration work the group completed over the last several years—work which shows the Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave to be at least the 20th longest cave in the United States, though exploration is ongoing, so the cave’s actual length is unknown. The Snowy River Passage, discovered in 2001, is now thought to have the longest cave formation—or speleothem, as scientists refer to it—in the world. The river-like crystalline calcite formation was caused by intermittent flowing waters, and is what gives the NCA part of its name.
Above ground, or “topside,” in caver lingo, the group notes some important trail work by AmeriCorps and EcoServants youth trail crews. Another significant milestone is the recent renovation of a historic building on the site, which will house both the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project and BLM offices.
In 2012, the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project was awarded $100,000 via the BLM Challenge Cost Share program that will allow the researchers and scientists to continue the valuable exploration and mapping of Fort Stanton Cave. This grant was given in part because the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project volunteers provide well over $100,000 worth of volunteer hours/work annually, sometimes adding up to more than 10-12,000 hours. The volunteers include: physicists, software and microwave engineers, educators, historians, micro and bat biologists, geologists, and hydrologists. Their invaluable research assists the BLM in management of the cave and associated regions and resources on the NCA.
The Fort Stanton Cave Study Project also received the Conservation Lands Foundation’s Conservation Leadership Award in 2011.
National Conservation Lands are home to irreplaceable natural, cultural, historic, recreational and scientific resources. While the Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave NCA is a great example of an area that contains all of those, the ground-breaking scientific research that is occurring here is truly unique. It would not be possible without the work of the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project, and the protection the cave and surrounding area are afforded as part of our National Conservation Lands.
Happy 5th Anniversary!