|SOME EXPERIENCE IN APPLYING THE AUSTRALIAN CAVE
MANAGEMENT CLASSIFICATION SCHEME
The recent Victorian project to compile a classified catalogue of the state’s caves provided an interesting opportunity of testing the Australian cave management classification scheme against a substantial data set. A number of minor adjustments in the classification categories are identified. Some useful distinctions and problems of allocating sites to management categories are also discussed.
The Victorian Caves Classification Committee (which advises the Minister for Conservation, Forests & Lands) recently conducted a preliminary management study of Victorian caves and karst. The study compiled an inventory, assessment and preliminary management classification of all caves in the state. It also provided a review of the cave and karst resources of Victoria, an overview of values and management issues, and recommendations on management strategy. I was one of the Committee’s consultants for the study (Davey & White 1986). The study scope, methodology, conclusions and further strategy are discussed by Nicholas White (a CCC member) in another paper (White 1993, this volume).
The purpose of this contribution is to describe the experience of applying the Australian management classification scheme (Davey & others 1982) to the Victorian data, to review some minor changes to the categories which were identified as appropriate, and to comment on some principles in applying the management classifications. The paper is not concerned with Victorian sites as such. In a further paper (Davey 1993,nthis volume) I look at the separate but obviously related question of systems for efficient handling of the considerable volume of sites data.
Adjustments to Management Catergories
The Victorian study (Davey & White 1986) adopted a number of minor adjustments to the Australian cave management scheme (Davey & others 1982). The structure of the adjusted management classification is shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Summary of cave management classification categories
The only category change is to give explicit recognition to cultural values alongside natural values in category 2.2, thereby changing its title. This rectifies an omission from the original scheme. Although inclusion of cultural values was implicit in the earlier category, explicit recognition is needed. Archaeological sites are the most obvious examples, but Aboriginal cave art and European heritage sites are other examples. The management principles are essentially the same, so there is little justification in there being a separate category for cultural values as distinct from natural. The former qualification ‘outstanding’ turned out to be too inflexible. ‘Special’ has been substituted. This implies an onus of establishing how and why the site is special (i.e. significant - see below)
Category 2.1 (Reference) was previously expressed as having the objective of keeping aside undisturbed sites for ‘scientific reference’. To clarify the management purpose of this category, it seems more appropriate that the objective be expressed as ‘... for monitoring’ rather than for research as such. Scientific reference is not necessarily related to management or protection of the site or of the class it represents. The study concluded that a benchmark emphasis for management-oriented monitoring was more appropriate. Because of the need for strict control of entry, and to start from an undisturbed baseline, it was concluded that the Victorian data did not permit selection of any sites in this category at this stage. This category is potentially the most difficult of all to manage successfully.
A few other minor points of clarification were made in the classification adopted for the Victorian study. In all categories, testing with the data permitted some broad management prescriptions to be identified for the category. These, together with the various adjustments in the classification scheme itself, are reproduced in Appendix 1. More specific management prescriptions still need to be developed, but these comprise a better base than we have otherwise documented to date.
Allocating Sites to Management Categories
Several interesting misconceptions and difficulties of consistency were encountered in applying the management scheme in the Victorian study. It is not claimed that they were all completely resolved, but some of the general principles may be of interest.
It was not always immediately understood by people who reviewed various draft classification proposals that category 1.1 (Adventure) differ significantl in management function from category 3.2 (Wild), even though the recreation activities taking place within them may be similar. The essential point is that category 1.1 is a means of identifying sites in which the manager is overtly promoting certain recreational use, even though often at low levels. The vast bulk of speleological exploration and recreational caving would be expected to take place in sites categorised as 3.1. Extensive speleological use of a site does not as such imply category 1.1.
Indeed, many category 3.1 sites would be technically too difficult (and therefore potentially dangerous) to promote for adventure use.
It is easy to overlook the important difference between primary values and the management function or purpose of classifying a site into any particular category. This is especially the case with category 2.2 (Special natural and/or cultural value). The scheme is not an attempt to grade the intrinsic values of caves. Rather, it provides a framework for expressing different styles and levels of management (including protection) of the site. Unles there is a management reason to use category 2.2, many sites of outstanding natural or cultural value would continue to be managed as category 3.1 (Wild) sites.
In summary, a site should only be allocated to a category other than 3.1: if it is justifiable for it to serve that function; and if protection of the natural or cultural values requires management actions of the specific kind implied by the category.
The original classification scheme envisaged that the grounds used to make decisions about allocation into the various categories should be made as explicit as possible. To do so helps clarify the specific functions intended in the different categories. In the Victorian study, we identified 15 specific grounds for site evaluation (Table 2), as an expansion on the earlier ASF national heritage assessment study (Davey 1984).
Table 2: Grounds for site evaluation as representative
The grounds are unranked as to importance. The framework for stating site significance was then stated as needing a written statement (description) for each site, the essential purpose of which is to make clear:
* that the site is representative of certain identified feature, including
The Victorian study then identified a series of further assessment criteria for judging the level of signi-ficance. Again, these were not ranked as to relative importance. The criteria were stated as:
1. rarity, in a total (world-wide) sense;
[Davey & White 1986, p. 35].
The written statement of significance for any site would consist of an appropriate combination of these points, with explanation for each. Elaboration of these ideas for assessing significance is provided in the report, (Davey & White 1986). This now represents a modest expansion of the assessment basis outlined in the ASF heritage assessment study (Davey 1984), but further refinement is still called for.
The Victorian preliminary management classification was an interesting test of the cave management classification scheme. I am hopeful that this experience will promote further refinement with a different set of sites and a different set of management challenges and context. I look forward to hearing of other experience in applying and adapting the management classification system.
This paper is based on work undertaken by myself and Susan White while we were consultants to the Caves Classification Committee. The co-operation and advice of the Committee, and of the Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands through which it operates, are much appreciated. It is expected that this category would apply to any cave where protection (additional to the general level of protection for all caves in the area) is necessary to maintain the value of the site for research, heritage conservation, education, aesthetic appreciation or recreation. Management programs would include monitoring, restoration and protection works. Developments would be kept to a minimum, and are likely to be no more than essential markers, paths and anchors. Some maintenance may be necessary. The nature and extent of controls would depend on individual circumstances, but it is expected that nay activity which is consistent with protection of the special value(s) in question would be permitted.
* Access will be controlled in all sites in
the category. Use should be confined to activities and levels
which are consistent with the values and
objectives of the site concerned:
2.3 Dangerous Sites
This sub-category would be used vary rarely, if at all. Life is basically dangerous, some aspects of it more so than others. Danger is a very subjective thing and managers and landowners are not well equipped to make proscriptive judgments on the safety or otherwise of persons knowingly entering caves. All caves are dangerous to some degree, and it is desirable to avoid using “danger” as a grounds for restricting access to caves. However, in recognition of some of the legal and practical difficulties involved, it is acknowledged that there may be a case for prohibiting entry of some specific caves which are considered to be particularly hazardous except to persons with special experience and/or equipment. This should only occur after consultation with as wide a range of experienced persons as possible.
Category 3: Wild (And Unclassified)Sites
Apart from any general management practices arising from the reservation and/or management objectives of the surrounding area, it is not expected that there would be any specific management practices or controls in individual caves in this category. The area management policies may relate to a general requirement for permits, or for certain reporting of activities, and/or for certain equipment to be carried. Developments would be restricted to essential markers, paths and anchors. Some monitoring, restoration and maintenance would be needed. Control of access by gates or similar would not be used for this category. Caves in the two sub-categories would be subject to virtually the same management provisions.
3.1. Caves Classified as Wild
3.2 All Unclassified Caves
All caves not yet classified or documented (or yet to be discovered) would automatically fall into this category.
General management prescriptions applying to all categories:
* The code of ethics of the Australian Speleological Federation
should be a minimum base for
all education, recreation, research and
management activities conducted in caves.