Author Topic: Why does British Caving need a national body?  (Read 2192 times)

Online droid

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Re: Why does British Caving need a national body?
« Reply #25 on: June 16, 2017, 07:13:57 pm »
The 'our caves' phrase comes from the interest the users of the caves have for them, not from concepts of 'ownership'.

That interest generates feelings of care and consideration that the legal owners might not have.
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Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Why does British Caving need a national body?
« Reply #26 on: June 16, 2017, 07:54:09 pm »
Agree: that is most certainly a valid view.

However to use such sweeping expressions can easily reinforce a different mindset. It was to this that my comment referred.

Also be aware that many legal owners have far more care and consideration for the caves in their custody than anyone else.

Care and consideration for the caves; perhaps. Alternatively care and consideration for themselves and their engendered sense of entitlement. There's many ways of skewing things to suit an agenda.

Apologies. OT. Move away from the bicker.

Offline Amata

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Re: Why does British Caving need a national body?
« Reply #27 on: June 16, 2017, 08:43:08 pm »
Intriguing reply - especially as you have experience in both countries.

In many respects UK caving is organized 'bottom-up': cavers mostly belong to one or more local clubs and those clubs form the regional access bodies; the national organisation is mostly concerned with national matters - promotion of caving, representing cavers to national and governmental bodies, and providing certain over-arching services such as insurance, equipment testing and standards, certain (limited) funding, and library. How does the organisation of caving compare in the USA? 'Bottom-up' / 'top-down' / bit of both / altogether different? I (and maybe other UK cavers) would be interested in your take on it, not least because you have a reasonable feel for how things work in the UK. Thanks.
Aww thanks :) Sorry this is going to get long....I wont go over all the national stuff BCA provides since folk know it already, just contrast with how shit NSS is here.

Well, there are grottos (caving clubs) that are part of the NSS, but together they do not make the NSS, they are subgroups of it. We do have some regional groupings of grottos; Ozark region, SERA (southeast region), etc. that seem more independent of the NSS and more just local grottos banding together. But for the NSS, I would say it is top-down. But, The US is very big, and rules are different everywhere. The NSS does nothing really for access or cave management (although they claim to, I have yet to see this in practice). The reason it is dying is it doesn't add anything to the local grottos that make it up. So everything in reality is local level.

The mantra here is: if you want to go caving, join the NSS then find a local grotto. But in reality, the local grotto is where all your access comes from. It is where all your training (or lack of, as most grottos are shit at this) comes from. Sure, there is "guide to safe caving" provided by the NSS, but it's nothing more than a basic pamphlet of dont be stupid. I joined the NSS the instant I got back from my first cave trip, June 16, 2010. I did not find a grotto to go caving with until Spring 2011, about 8-9 months later. Contrast that to my UK experience - realizing I was going to be there in Nov 2010 and posting looking for trips, quickly making contact with Les and instantly plugged in to the Wessex and BCA. I dont know if he realizes it but that trip he took me to OFD bottom was the 7th cave trip I'd ever done. That's how shit the US is at plugging people in, even if you do what you are supposed to, which is: "Join the NSS and then find a local grotto". Yup. Great help.

So let's say you join the NSS then get told to join a grotto, lets say you are lucky to live in a cave-rich region so pick Huntsville. You come to a meeting (we, and most grottos, have monthly or bi-monthly meetings). You sign up for a cave trip that is grotto-lead (but the trip leader quality varies greatly, so your newbie retention may be shit, as there is no national or even local held-to training for leading trips). You get told a lot of the stuff here is vertical, so either join up with some the vertical people who meet to practice, or take the Huntsville cave rescue unit SRT course (impo, the better option but I may be biased  ;) ) which we tend to do about 3-4 times a year, and is a two day (weekend long) class for $40. All gear provided and *we* all follow standard training protocols since we are a rescue unit.

Everything is done on a local level, but the NSS wants to stay the bigwhig while doing *nothing*. NSS does not have insurance, access, equipment or training standards, a few people try to help with laws and such but in reality that is the NSS taking credit for local individual effort, they do fund some expeditions but last I checked nowhere *near* what the BCA & BCRA does. Now, some would argue that there are different sections of the NSS - survey, diving, vertical, national cave rescue commission (which does not do rescues, merely offers training standards) but the reality is again, those are individuals putting time and effort into those special sections, that if you dont have them nearby, or dont have money to access them (NCRC seminar is about $500-$600, plus travel to it, plus lodging) you dont benifit from those "services". So again, it bumps it down to local level.

Example: I wanted to get into surveying and cartography almost from day one. I love drawing, I love maps, I love projects, seemed perfect! Yet it took me 3 years before I even got networked onto a survey trip, and when nothing followed up from that I ended up just reading all I could from the Ozark region (which has great project cavers) and learning from you Brits what to do. No-one "taught" me. After years, I found folk who were finally willing to answer questions online and put the bits and pieces together myself. All those special sections offer some reading material and such, but when access to direct standards and teaching is difficult to impossible, and often costs hundreds or thousands more, how can it be called a service? Know what you are told to do if you ask the NSS how to survey? "Attend an NSS Convention and go to the survey training sessions, and buy our book On Station."

Contrast that to knowing I needed to do a really good model of Unterstein to save it from a construction project, within three days through a chain of FIVE people, Badger loaned me a disto x2. I never even met the man or knew who he was.  :o :beer2: (I have since met him, back in March when I was last there, we were down Swildons on different trips  ;D I still owe him a beer or five for that!)

So yeah. What did the NSS do for me? Take my money - and they keep raising the prices I think it is up to $50 for a year now. When I first joined it was $35. My SO and other long rope gurus taught me SRT that got me to Mexico and El Capitan. Folk like Mr Seddon and others have taught me tips and tricks for "alpine" SRT. Surveying was 100% brit friends, cartography 50/50 Ozark/Brit. My rescue training? Huntsville Cave Rescue. Access to caves? my own speaking with landowners, or relationships maintained through the local grotto/s. Notice...nothing did the NSS do.

So, while the NSS pretends to be a top-down organization, in reality, any training or help or anything is going to be based on the people you actually go caving with, and as such, will vary wildly. And if you can't find someone who does what you want to learn, you wont be able to easily get access to that knowledge.


... what is more important than the future of our caves?

Our caves. That old chestnut.

Therein lies the deep-set fundamental misunderstanding.
Sorta off-topic I guess, but follows from above regarding access...

It is an issue here. I would say probably 50-75% of cavers here dont belong to the NSS. Because it really does nothing. I would also say that a good majority of those cavers (this is my observation of interacting with them) are the kind who tresspass - even against expressed landowner request - to caves as they feel "caves are part of the world and for all". While this would be amazing to not have borders - not just for land and caves, but nations as well - the problem is in current society there *are* borders, and violating them just causes trouble for everyone. It also regularly gets cave access closed here - as there are plenty of landowners fine with you going but just want to be asked/notfied first so they know! If they are disrespected, they wont put up with *any* cavers at all. Fairly so.

People complain here about lack of access to caves because the NSS doesnt do anything and most land is private here. (Well, NSS owns some preserves, but even Shelta here is locked, and in five years I have yet to get key to access it - when they do own preserves they close them it seems) Landowners dont like tresspassers, for many legit reasons. And since this is the boondock south, if you do tresspass especially during our very long hunting (Nov-April) season, you will likely get met with a shotgun to your face if you try. People complain and bitch and moan about these landowners to hell and back. Know what? *I HAVE NEVER BEEN TOLD NO*. Not yet. Why? I go up and approach the landowner, politely and with respect, explain I am interested in their cave for xyz reasons, and would they mind? and I would be happy to show them a survey or photos, etc. I have always been told "Yes, sure go on have fun!" Even in Newsome Sinks - an area that got locked off to cavers thanks *to* idiot trespassers back in the 80's - I get access to just fine since I have the common decency to ask.

I think what we forget with access discussions is - in the end - this is someone's land. And just like you dont want someone trouncing through your garden, they dont want someone in theirs especially when it is an unknown stranger. A little courtesy and respect goes a *long* way.

Now sometimes access is more complicated and idiotic. Like all federal land caves here are technically closed. I know you have land owned by royalty/state and such as well. This is the kind of land that on the surface anyone can be there, but some reason they are fudgy about being underground. Now, that is stupid. And that is the sort of thing you need a good national body to help with.

Private land? definitely need permission with landowner. You would above ground too. You dont trespass, it's wrong.
When above and below is public, yet treated differently? now we have some issues.

I will add that the NSS lost a LOT of support when they did not get on top of white nose syndrome and the federal and state closing of caves. To have a national body stand idly by when access to all but privately owned caves were shut down nation wide is just unthinkable, especially when that shutting down flew in the face of all scientific research. Stuff is relaxing more in the last year or two, but this is thanks to local grottos and people working hard with their state and local Dept of Natural Resources.

_____
On a slightly tangental topic - and something I wish the NSS would consider and may be of value to the BCA - is teaming up with other societies for outdoor recreation.
This is something that the American Rabbit Breeders Association started doing a long time ago. Rabbits and poultry both tend to be the oddballs out here in legal issues since they are so small but still "livestock". Now, poultry farms obviously have much more money backing them, but rabbits have popularity and people as well as govt connections that the ARBA worked hard to get and maintain to influence legistlation to leave rabbits out of livestock laws. By combining forces, you have the connections, people, and money that the legal system requires to get work done. Everyone benefits. When VHD broke out in a commerical rabbit farm, the tristate area rabbit transport was immedietly stopped by the ARBA as well as all shows canceled until the source traced and lab tests back. We ended up with only a two month suspension of shows before it was erradicated again and everything continued as normal. That sort of response only comes from being well regarded by the state governments. And such relationships take time, and yes, money becuase it is politics. Poultry has benifited similarly.

I do not understand why cavers seem to never want to join forces with mountaineering or backpacking clubs. We all have similar ethos and ethics, but together we would be a larger voice with more connections at our disposal. But i suppose that is due to cavers here not wanting caving to be seen as a sport, people here dont *want* it to be acceptable to cave because in their mind that would ruin and destroy the caves. It's an odd dichotomy I think to be a caver but not want caving to be acceptable, but it is the mindset of many. But I wont digress more into conservation ethics as that is def off topic!
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 08:59:57 pm by Amata »
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Offline Amata

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Re: Why does British Caving need a national body?
« Reply #28 on: June 16, 2017, 09:20:30 pm »
I am sorry that got so long  :confused:
If something is unclear happy to answer more specific questions.

I suppose I never said what I got of the BCA...
- cheaper club membership (since I am direct BCA, I find it easiest that way being overseas I usually let club membership wane between visits)
- access to more caves (ex: DYO!)
- insurance
- Hidden earth is 100x better managed than NSS Convention (I did a program for HE, got the day free! NSS asked me for a program, said I had to pay to attend the entire week of convention - I was not attending it but it was local so I had to pay them $150+ to do them a favor...that is typical NSS. NSS doesnt have volunteer retention because of how shit you get treated when you do volunteer.)
- Newsletter
- Membership card (silly but it is one of NSS ones so in fairness!)
- I suppose a lot of my benefits are indirect - due to good people who make it up who follow the guidlines and training and ethics set forth.
- I do benefit from BCRA more than nss version as well
Cost: $30usd

What I get from NSS:
- A membership card
- Monthly newsletter
Cost: $50usd

...i mean there you go. Even with exchange rates, I get way more, at way less cost. Oh, and when I request information I actually get it from ya and I live across the ocean! contrast that to I live where the NSS library is, and it is a PITA to get any info. I bet it is worse for anyone not in town!
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Offline AR

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Re: Why does British Caving need a national body?
« Reply #29 on: June 17, 2017, 10:19:47 pm »
Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to consider the position British caving would be in without a national body. It's very unlikely that there would be 3rd party liability cover anything like that we currently have; as a collective body there are enough of us to get a broker interested but disparate individuals and small groups, even regional groupings? Very unlikely. Collection and preservation of information? Chances are, it'll be scattered between clubs and individuals with the risk of it being lost as and when clubs fold and people die. Dealing with governmental bodies and major landowners? You stand a much better chance of being taken seriously with the clout of a major organisation behind you; I know this from experience of dealing with Heritage England, the County Council and the National Park.

No, I'll stick with having the BCA, warts and all - even if dealing with the warts takes a lot longer than we'd like, they can be dealt with.
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Re: Why does British Caving need a national body?
« Reply #30 on: June 19, 2017, 06:34:26 am »
We like a lot of what the BCA does, some folks are exceptionally hard working. We understand the need for a national body.

What we don't like is the distinct appearance of caving in, pun fully intended, to those hell-bent on keeping the funny handshakes. If this issue goes away, we're more than happy to join, it's the vast majority of the reason we have left the BCA, and the rest we can live with.. nothings perfect after all. If it doesn't get sorted, we won't be the only ones that leave.
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Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Why does British Caving need a national body?
« Reply #31 on: June 19, 2017, 07:33:41 am »
Never once has the learning of a funny handshake appeared to be a prerequisite for access to a cave, in my experience, in these here parts; obtaining a permit, yes; paying a piffling goodwill fee, yes; picking up a key, yes; arranging a convenient date, yes; caving within particular times so as not to upset a landowner late at night, yes. Do you have any examples of funny handshakes as it would help tremendously to know what on earth you're on about. Perhaps it's just a turn of phrase that actually translates as being friendly with a landowner, the result of such a friendship being that you benefit from access to a cave which others have yet to have organised.

Offline Amata

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Re: Why does British Caving need a national body?
« Reply #32 on: June 19, 2017, 10:23:09 pm »
Never once has the learning of a funny handshake appeared to be a prerequisite for access to a cave, in my experience, in these here parts; obtaining a permit, yes; paying a piffling goodwill fee, yes; picking up a key, yes; arranging a convenient date, yes; caving within particular times so as not to upset a landowner late at night, yes. Do you have any examples of funny handshakes as it would help tremendously to know what on earth you're on about. Perhaps it's just a turn of phrase that actually translates as being friendly with a landowner, the result of such a friendship being that you benefit from access to a cave which others have yet to have organised.
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Offline Ian Adams

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Re: Why does British Caving need a national body?
« Reply #33 on: June 19, 2017, 11:07:00 pm »
Never once has the learning of a funny handshake appeared to be a prerequisite for access to a cave, in my experience, in these here parts; obtaining a permit, yes; paying a piffling goodwill fee, yes; picking up a key, yes; arranging a convenient date, yes; caving within particular times so as not to upset a landowner late at night, yes. Do you have any examples of funny handshakes as it would help tremendously to know what on earth you're on about.

None of those are pre-requisites in (many) other caving areas.

Doesn't that speak volumes?

 ;)

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Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Why does British Caving need a national body?
« Reply #34 on: June 19, 2017, 11:18:01 pm »
Yes. Mendip has a long history of digging and subsequent access control and enhanced cave preservation through warden leadership systems.

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Re: Why does British Caving need a national body?
« Reply #35 on: June 20, 2017, 03:38:20 am »
Never once has the learning of a funny handshake appeared to be a prerequisite for access to a cave, in my experience, in these here parts; obtaining a permit, yes; paying a piffling goodwill fee, yes; picking up a key, yes; arranging a convenient date, yes; caving within particular times so as not to upset a landowner late at night, yes. Do you have any examples of funny handshakes as it would help tremendously to know what on earth you're on about.

None of those are pre-requisites in (many) other caving areas.

Doesn't that speak volumes?

 ;)

Ian

Where are these Utopian caving areas, Ian? Where you don't need at least one of permit, goodwill fee (piffling), key, or arranging a date and/or time?
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Re: Why does British Caving need a national body?
« Reply #36 on: June 20, 2017, 05:48:28 pm »
Sorry this is going to get long....I wont go over all the national stuff BCA provides since folk know it already, just contrast with how shit NSS is here.

Sorry for delay in replying - been away.

Thank you very much for taking so much trouble over such a full and detailed reply. It corrected my previously vague (and inaccurate) impressions of the relationship between NSS and grottoes. Much food for thought.

Incidentally I hadn't realised the extent of your previous caving before your UK visit - so well done you for the number and type of trips that you fitted in!

Thanks again.