Dale L. Pate
Dale Pate is the National Cave and Karst Program Coordinator for the National Park Service (NPS). Dale’s career in the cave and karst field began as an avid caver in 1970 in Central Texas and the mountainous areas of Mexico including the Purificación area within the rugged Sierra Madre Oriental. Having received a BA in Geography from Texas State University in 1974, Dale began work in 1976 with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Austin, Texas. During the next few years, he augmented his education with a number of geology classes from the University of Texas. Dale remained with the USGS through June 1991 when he became the Cave Specialist for Carlsbad Caverns National Park. At the park, he served as a manager for 21 years with oversight of numerous cave projects which included all activities within Lechuguilla Cave. Dale became the full-time National Cave and Karst Program Coordinator for the NPS in July 2012 after having served the position in a half-time capacity since May 2007.
Long-term Understanding, Protection, and Enjoyment of Cave and Karst Resources
As we close in on the 20th National Cave & Karst Management Symposium (NCKMS), it is important to reflect on the many accomplishments made in the last four decades since the first National Cave Management Symposium (NCMS). Understanding the past and where we come from gives us the ability to move forward into a future where we will continue to build upon our understanding, protection, and enjoyment of cave and karst resources. The first NCMS was held in 1975 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At that time there were few cave conservancies across the United States, there wasn’t a Federal Cave Resources Protection Act. There were only a few “cave specialists” working in federal, state, and local agencies with cave properties. There was no National Cave & Karst Research Institute. And the word “karst” was not even part of the title of these symposia. But there was momentum building across the United States and the world. Called by some back in the 1970’s as the “Golden Age of Caving”, many things came together at about the same time that gave cavers and cave scientists the ability to travel to all corners of the world and the ability for these pioneers to safely enter, explore, and study remote and vast cave and karst systems. At the same time, in the US and other places, there were explosions in the building of housing and other infra-structure needs. In numerous areas, new sub-divisions were being built in significant cave and karst areas. During this time, many caves were destroyed simply due to lack of involvement by those in the know, namely cavers and cave scientists. In order to protect and preserve local cave and karst areas, the caving community had to become more involved and more politically active on all levels. With these and many other efforts over the last 40 years, there has been significant progress in many directions.
With a theme of “a changing climate”, this year’s National Cave and Karst Management Symposium promises to be a good one filled with excellent papers, field trips, and the ever-present camaraderie that enhances discussions and builds new friendships, partnerships, and new directions for cave and karst resources management.
So, in many ways we come full-circle. We are back in New Mexico where the NCMS started with this most recent symposium being organized by the National Cave and Karst Research Institute, a national organization that was created out the momentum of the last 40 years. Despite some of the negative connotations of “a changing climate”, we have a lot to be thankful for and a bright and hopeful future that will continue to move cave and karst management in a positive direction. Providing these symposia as an outlet for the discussions on cave and karst management activities was a good proactive approach back in 1975 and is still an excellent and useful tool today as we fight for the long-term protection, conservation, and enjoyment of cave and karst resources across the US.