Forest Service Home |  About the Agency |  Contact the National Office
Forest Service and USDA logos which link to each site 
horse, rider and pack mule

Caves & Karst Resources















MGM logo


Cave and Karst Resource Management in the Forest Service

Caves and karst resources occur in over 100 national forests in the United States. Karst is formed by the dissolution of soluble carbonate bedrock such as limestone, dolostone, and marble.


The Forest Service has identified over 2,200 caves on National Forest System lands, often with the assistance of partners such as the National Speleological Society and Cave Research Foundation. Caves and karst resources are important geologic resources that require special management because they support critical groundwater systems and unique biological communities. They also provide information about climate change, human history, paleontological resources, and minerals. In addition, unstable ground associated with karst terrain can pose hazards to human health and safety. The Forest Service manages caves and karst resources in keeping with the 1988 Federal Cave Resources Protection act and in accordance with the multiple use mission of the agency.


The goal of the Forest Service’s cave and karst resource management program is to protect and maintain the biologic, geologic, mineralogical, paleontological, hydrologic, cultural, educational, scientific, and recreational values of caves and karst resources.






Beneath the Forest” is the Forest Service newsletter about cave and karst resources that is published biannually.  Articles are submitted from Forest Service cave and karst resource managers, other field personnel, and volunteers as well as stakeholders from National Speleological Society Grottos, the Cave Research Foundation, and university research groups.  

Interested in submitting material? The spring deadline is April 1 and the fall deadline is October 1.  Articles, cave maps, or photos of Forest Service cave and karst resources are all welcome additions to the newsletter. For more information concerning format, to submit material, or to join the mailing list, please email To view a sample issue please visit: Volume 4, Issue 1, Spring 2011



Current Issues

White-nose Syndrome little brown bat with white nose

White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is decimating bat populations in the U.S. and Canada while they hibernate in caves and mines.  Scientists identified a previously unknown species of cold-loving fungus, Geomyces destructans, as the cause of WNS, and survey crews have found this fungus on bats in the United States as far west as Iowa and Missouri.  In order to protect bats, Forest Service regional offices are issuing restrictions and closure orders on entrance to caves and mines.  As of October 1, 2010, the Forest Service requires decontamination procedures for visitors to show caves and decontamination at all Forest Service abandoned mines and caves.



USDA Forest Service
Last Modified:  March 16, 2012 USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.