14 April 2009

White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) is a deadly ailment that has recently killed more than 500,000 bats in the northeastern United States. Biologists are working hard to study WNS, but no one yet fully understands the cause of the deaths, how to stop them, or how to stop them from spreading. What is known is that WNS is spreading. There is evidence that people may carry WNS from cave to cave. To prevent or reduce the risk of people distributing WNS throughout the United States and other parts of the world, the 15th International Congress of Speleology (ICS) is announcing the following policies and actions. These are in accord with the U.S. National Speleological Society’s policy on WNS and supported by the Bureau of the International Union of Speleology

  1. All ICS caving trips in WNS-affected areas are cancelled immediately. The “affected areas” are those U.S. states known to have caves with WNS and their neighboring states, as recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Advisory at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/wnscaveadvisory.html. “Caving trips” do not include trips into show caves, which are exempt from the Advisory. As of 13 April 2009, the affected states are (shown in red):

    New Hampshire
    New Jersey
    New York
    North Carolina
    Rhode Island
    West Virginia

  2. Caving trips outside the WNS-affected areas may also be cancelled or modified as required by land owner or government policy, or other special needs. No caving trips will occur in caves that have an active or seasonally-active bat colony, unless the cave is extensive and active or seasonally-active bat occupied areas are not entered.

  3. All ICS trips will follow the regulations and policies established by the land management entity, owner, and/or relevant government agency.

  4. Decontamination will be required for all caving trips outside of the WNS-affected areas. A decontamination system will be set up at Schreiner University and all camp and excursion sites that will visit wild caves.

  5. The Congress asked that any caving equipment, including but not limited to clothes, boots, packs, ascenders, gloves, bottles, lights, helmets, etc., used in a cave or bat roost site in any state covered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Advisory, not be used on any ICS caving trip.

  6. The following trips are now cancelled because of WNS or other factors

Pre-ICS excursion 04: Endangered Species/Endangered Caves
Pre-ICS excursion 82: Caves of the Bahamas
Pre-ICS field camp 33: Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia
Pre-ICS field camp 34: Tectonic Pseudokarst of Western North Carolina
Pre-ICS field camp 37: Caves of Virginia
Pre-ICS field camp 56: Caves of the Sierra Nevada, California
Post-ICS excursion 81: Caving with the Maya, Belize
Wednesday trip WD-108: Land and Bat Habitat Restoration
Wednesday trip WD-109: Powell’s Cave
Wednesday trip WD-120: Fredericksburg, Peaches, and History
Wednesday trip WD-122: River Walk and Shopping in San Antonio
Wednesday trip WD-123: San Marcos Prime Shopping Center
Wednesday trip WD-124: Schlitterbahn Waterpark
Wednesday trip WD-126: YO Ranch

If you are registered for one of the above trips, you will automatically be given your 2nd or 3rd choice trip. If you did not give a 2nd or 3rd choice, please go to https://secure.concentric.com/ics2009.us/register/regform.php?addInfo=true and add your choices. If you do not wish to join another trip, please write that in the comment section of the above registration webpage and your trip fee will be refunded.

If you are registered for an ICS trip that is not listed above, do not do anything at this time except to add 2nd and 3rd choices if you have not already done so. Please do not contact the ICS for more information about how WNS will affect ICS trips at this time. This message has all of the information currently available and we will send you more as soon as possible. Any modified trips or additional cancelled trips will be announced via the e-mail list by 5 May 2009. The 15th ICS understands that many of you have already made travel arrangements that cannot be changed. Our staff is working hard to quickly provide interesting and fun alternative things to do for trips where cave entry is not possible. Refunds for trips will be available and you can also request alternate trips, but wait until the 5 May announcement to see if your trips will still be offered or changed. We expect to still offer many excellent trips. Deadlines for refunds, how to make changes in your ICS trips, and other information will be included in the e-mail message sent by 5 May 2009.


The Organizing Committee of the 15th ICS apologizes for the inconveniences caused by WNS and we thank you for your understanding and support to prevent this national emergency from becoming a worldwide crisis. Be aware that the list of affected areas and caves may change as more information and government advisories become available. For more information on WNS, see http://caves.org/WNS/WNS%20Info.htm

Please distribute this message to any people, websites, e-mails lists, or newsletters you think are affected or interested.



  1. Cancel all caving trips in WNS- affected areas immediately, unless plans can be made to convert them to non-caving trips.

  2. Trip Leaders may elect to cancel or modify trips outside the WNS-affected area.

  3. All ICS-sponsored trips will follow the regulations and policies established by the land management agency or owner and relevant state and federal agencies (e.g., state game and fish departments, National Park Service, etc.).

  4. All Trip Leaders must develop written decontamination plans for their trips. Current U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decontamination procedures are attached; if new and superior methods become available between now and the ICS, they will be provided to the trip leaders ASAP so trip decontamination methods can be updated.  Plans must include provisions for decontaminating all non-new clothing and equipment at both the beginning and end of the trip, and may include decontamination at other times as appropriate.

  5. Trip Leaders MUST present an alternative, contingency plan/description for their trips to Peri by April 30th in case wild caving becomes disallowed prior to or during the event. Include updated budgets for your trips, including the cost of decontamination if it pertains to your trips. We potentially face situations of NO wild caving irregardless of the land owner/manager if WNS spreads. If the camp leader is unable and/or unwilling to provide a non-wild caving alternative, the trip should be cancelled by May 4th. Camp/excursion leaders must be committed to their non-caving alternative and only cancel due to other, unexpected problems.

  6. The alternative plans/descriptions will be posted and sent out to registrants on May 5th. The registrants can cancel with a 100% refund up to June 1st. After that date, no refunds will be issued for cancellations.

  7. The Congress asks that any caving gear, including but not limited to, clothes, boots, overalls, packs, ascenders, gloves, bottles, etc., used in a cave or bat roost site in any state covered by the USFWS Cave Advisory not be used during any Congress caving trips.

  8. A decontamination system will be set up at Schreiner University and all camp and excursion sites that will visit wild caves.

  9. All cave gear used in a wild cave will need to be decontaminated before each wild cave visit and before leaving the camp, excursion, and/or Congress. Trip leaders may allow exceptions if the same cave is visited consecutively.

  10. No wild caving trips will occur in caves that have an active or seasonally active bat colony. Exceptions include areas not occupied by bats in extensive caves that may contain roosts, and travel through active or seasonally active bat-occupied areas is not required to reach them.