Approximately 20% of Missouri caves are owned or managed by government agencies, most of which provide some access to at least some of the caves. Here are snail and web addresses for those agencies. Some of them also provide paper or digital public information, cave tours, and other cave and karst related services. Once you have determined ownership, please contact the agencies for their rules and regulations, which are ever-changing. A few caves also occur on Army Corps of Engineers lake property. Due to the occurrence of multiple districts in Missouri, please contact the specific lake you are interested in for information.
Missouri Dept. of Conservation
P.O. Box 180
Jefferson City, MO 65102
(Cave Life in Missouri)
Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 176
Jefferson City, MO 65102
(Cave Parks are Onondaga Cave, Meramec, Ozark Caverns, HaHa Tonka;
major springs occur at Bennett, Montauk, Roaring River, and HaHa Tonka.)
Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources
Geologic Survey and Resource Assessment Division
Maps and Publications Desk
P.O. Box 250
Rolla, MO 65401
(Geology & Water Resources Information)
Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Ozark Riverways Home Page
P.O. Box 490
Van Buren, MO 63965
(Caves & Springs of the ONSR)
Brief Overview of Federal, State and Local Agencies
National Park Service
Jurisdiction: All national parks and monuments, as well as some other
land purchased or managed by the Department of the Interior, not under
the control of the Bureau of Land Management (there is no BLM land in
Local Jurisdiction: Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Wilson's Creek
Battlefield National Park, George Washington Carver National Monument,
White Haven (U.S. Grant residence) and The Jefferson National Expansion
Memorial (the Arch.)
Mission: To preserve, protect and interpret outstanding examples of
natural, historic and cultural features. Preserve and protect rank much
higher in NPS goals than to provide access to all parts of the park at
all times to all people. NPS is interested in scientific work which will
further its mission; the focus is to maintain a world class experience
for the greatest number of average tourists in its interpretation,
consistent with stewardship of the land. All caves on NPS land are considered significant under the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988.
U.S. Forest Service:
Jurisdiction: National Forests and Grasslands.
Local Jurisdiction: Mark Twain National Forest, in segments scattered
throughout the state, primarily the Ozarks.
Mission: National Forests were established as resource management areas,
to ensure sources of timber, minerals, and water for days to come.
Missouri National Forests are largely second or third growth, replanted
after timber companies raped the Ozarks in the early 20th century, then
left. National Forests have always been multi-use areas, generating
income from timber, mining, and recreation, in varying proportions. It
is very hard being all things to all people, from huge corporations to
Earth First!ers--the Forest Service, by its mission, must maintain a
middle of the road stance. Try being the guy in the middle between tree
huggers and the guy with the D-9 CAT and chainsaw sometime. Some caves on the Mark Twain National Forest are considered significant under the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.(St. Louis District).
Jurisdiction: Navigable rivers and lakes in the U.S.--also has some
regulation over dams, water rights and water diversion on private land,
as it affects those downstream.
Local Jurisdiction: Same as above, plus land below and within a certain
distance of high pool on impoundments and the high water mark on rivers.
Most well known for the locks and dams on the Mississippi, and Corps
controlled recreation areas on Corps built impoundments such as Table
Rock Lake, Lake Clearwater, and Mark Twain Lake. If it is big enough for
a motorboat, the Corps probably has something to do with it.
Mission: Originally, they were the fighting Army engineers, who built
bridges overnight, earthworks, and so on in wartime. Someone got the
idea that these skilled (usually) men would be helpful on public works
civil engineering projects, keeping U.S. infrastructure sound, and their
own skills up, in case they had to go to war. Since nearly all public
construction of roads, bridges, dams and levees could be justified in
terms of national defense, the Army Corps got into all of it. Only very
high officials are still Regular Army--most employees are civilian.
After an expansionist phase where any unaltered natural feature was fair
game, the Corps today is a mix of old time "disciplined engineering can
solve any problem" people with the "bird & bunny men" (their phrase, not
mine) who want to use nature, not confront it, to solve engineering
problems. Recreation is a side issue to public works.
U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service:
Jurisdiction: Manages fish, birds, and wildlife who cross state or national boundaries in their natural migrations, especially non-game and endangered species, as well as federally listed species residing only in one state.
Local Jurisdiction: Mingo National Wildlife Refuge and other national
wildlife refuges along the Mississippi Flyway. These people are
ultimately responsible for federally endangered bats, cavefish, and
other critters, although, since they are greatly underfunded, much of
that work is actually done by the Missouri Department of Conservation,
Mission: Enforce federal laws pertaining to migratory and endangered
species. Research and implement management plans for these plants and
animals. Manage locations (often by prohibiting access) to places where
these species occur. Provide public education to help in their mission
of species preservation by getting public cooperation, and prosecution
Missouri Department of Conservation
Missouri Dept. of Conservation
Local Jurisdiction: Anywhere in the state with plants and animals, but
landowner rights are maintained on private land unless a violation of
the Wildlife Code or some other regulation is found or reported. MDC
maintains State Forests, Wildlife Refuges, River Accesses, and other
public lands for habitat, recreational, educational and research purposes.
Mission: MDC has legal responsibility for wild plants and animals in the
state, and to a secondary degree, habitat management to ensure that they
have a place to live. Some of this occurs on land managed by them, such
as state forests, and some on private land, where the landowner and the
MDC cooperate to encourage plants, animals and habitat. MDC is in charge
of both game and non-game species, and, in cooperation with the U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service, endangered and migratory species as well.
Conservation agents are law enforcement officers as well as educators.
Prior to the passage of an 1/8 cent sales tax, most of MDC's emphasis
was on hunting, fishing, farming and trapping. Since then, outdoor
recreation of all kinds have been incorporated, and the mission of the
agency has expanded to include environmental education, urban ecology
concerns, and natural history. MDC is primarily a preservation and
management agency, with recreation an important, but secondary, concern.
MDC has a cave access policy, which groups caves according to their
ecological sensitivity and hazards.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Jurisdiction: Missouri, but depends on the division. The Air and Land Protection Division, the Water Protection and Soil Conservation Division, the Geologic Survey and Resource Assessment Division, the Energy Center, and the State Historic Preservation Office have jurisdiction over the whole state; the Division of State Parks is responsible for state parks and historic sites.
Local Jurisdiction: Only GS-RAD and the Division of State Parks have direct responsibilities related to caves, although any of the either of the Protection Divisions may deal with water or land issues related to caves and karst GS-RAD maps and publications sells topographic maps and other materials related to
geology. DSP controls access to numerous caves, most notably at Meramec, HaHaTonka, Ozark Caverns, Rockbridge and Onondaga Cave State Parks. Other parks have caves, but none to rival these.
Mission: DNR's mission is the preservation and appropriate use of the
state's natural resources. the Protection Divisions are the place to report hazardous waste spills, and other pollution violations, as well as get information on
recycling and environmental issues. GS-RAD which includes Water
Resources, deals with minerals, dam safety, water rights, scientific
geologic survey, topographic survey, and basically any land and water
issues. DSP has the usual preserve, interpret and provide reasonable
access to visitors mission of a park system. Most caving on park land is
locally regulated; see a naturalist at the park for inquiries about any
Missouri Highway and Transportation Department
Jurisdiction: All state and federal highway corridors in the state.
Local Jurisdiction: Interstates, numbered and lettered state highways
and adjacent state owned land.
Mission: Build, maintain and administer highways in the state; some
jurisdiction on other modes of transportation--railroads and river
traffic as regulated by state law or with state funds. Transportation is
paramount in their mission. With the addition of Environmental Impact
Statements required before state roads are constructed with federal
funds, cave must be given consideration in routing; however, it takes a
very significant cave to reroute a highway. Engineering considerations
usually given priority over conservation issues.
Local City & County Parks
Jurisdiction: Parks of the city or county in question; also surrounding
lands if they negatively impact parkland.
Local Jurisdiction: Same as above. Some cities and counties have
governing boards for particular parks, and large staffs. Examples: the
Governing Board of Tower Grove Park in St. Louis, and the large staff of
St. Louis County Parks & Recreation. Other city and county parks are
little more than vacant lots, occasionally patrolled by local police or
sheriff's deputies. It all depends on money available.
Mission: Local city and county parks sometimes seem more interested in
recreational opportunities and law enforcement, simply because of their
proximity to large numbers of people. Caves are often seen more as
hazards than as resources, simply because local parks tend to be
hangouts, and havens for irresponsible behavior. Residents of the same
city or county as the park can sometimes make a big difference in how
they are managed.
2003 Jo Schaper.
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