Fort Stanton-Snowy River May Be First National Cave Conservation Area
On May 31, 2005, the world learned what a handful of people knew—the existence of what may be the longest continuous calcite formation in the world—Snowy River. The Snowy River passage of the BLM-managed Fort Stanton Cave is an unparalleled natural wonder in Lincoln County. Already mapped at more than two miles in length, Snowy River is likely to grow in acclaim as more of it is revealed. Senator Pete V. Domenici (together with Senator Jeff Bingaman) announced the introduction of a bill that establishes a Fort Stanton-Snowy River National Cave Conservation Area.
"The Snowy River Passage may be one of the most significant speleological finds ever. This legislation would see that it is protected for suitable scientific and educational opportunities associated with this magnificent discovery," Domenici said. "There is so much potential for us to learn from this passage, and I hope this legislation will clear the way for us to protect it, study it and find the best means of sharing it on a broader basis."
U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is an original cosponsor to the bill. "The discovery of the Snowy River passage is a truly exciting find for our state. The right thing to do now is to ensure there is a conservation plan for the cave area. I look forward to working with Senator Domenici to pass legislation that will do just that," Bingaman said.
"This designation for Fort Stanton Cave would be the first of its kind in the nation. We look forward to working with the scientific community, universities, and local partners in the creation of a workable plan to conserve the Fort Stanton Cave including the unparalleled Snowy River discovery," said Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton.
The Snowy River passage was discovered in the Fort Stanton Cave by volunteers of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2001, but it can now be made known with the completion of an environmental assessment of the passage and its formations.
The continued scientific research and discoveries in the cave may yield valuable information on the hydrology, geology and microbiology in the region. For instance, investigations of the Snowy River formation may provide information on past water chemistry, weather trends, and flood and drought cycles.