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Kuna Caves impacted by visitors dumping trash, painting graffiti and lighting fires

Posted at 10:08 PM, May 25, 2024

KUNA, Idaho — The Kuna Caves are a naturally occurring lava tube that attracts visitors to South Kuna. Some visitors to the Kuna Caves are impacting the natural phenomenon by dumping trash, painting graffiti on the walls and lighting fires.

  • Graffiti is incredibly difficult to remove from the hard lava rock walls of the cave.
  • It costs the Bureau of Land Management roughly $2,200 to remove a 55-gallon drums worth of trash from the location. Larger dumps can cost more that $8,000 to clean up.
  • Fires are prohibited in the cave.

(Below is the transcript from the broadcast story)

Phil Basak works as a law enforcement ranger for the Bureau of Land Management.

“Unfortunately, you’re gonna see graffiti,” says Basak. "That’s probably gonna be one of your first things you see as you start dropping down into it."

He tells me that sites like the Kuna Caves are popular places to see graffiti on the walls and trash left behind by visitors.

“First and foremost, it’s unsightly. I don't want to see what people have left behind,” Basak added. "It takes away from people’s experience when they do come visit."

Graffiti is incredibly difficult to remove from the hard lava rock walls and often becomes a permanent addition to these natural sites.

Fires in the cave also leave scars on the walls that can’t be cleaned.

“To most people's disbelief, fires are actually a no-go in the Kuna Cave,” Basak said. "It is part of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, and that area actually has a designation in where fires are prohibited."

“It’s a really interesting cave experience,” says Aide Posadas Trejo, a first time visitor to the Kuna Caves.

“The unfortunate part is there’s graffiti down there, but it’s part of the story I suppose,” Trejo added.

She tells me that the graffiti takes away from the unique natural rock formation.

“But it’s sad in a way because it isn’t clean and it should be,” Trejo said. "It kind of detracts from it and you do want it to be clean and you wish that they would clean it up."

“Well I’ve always been an explorer, always wanna explore stuff," said Giovanni Sileoni, after climbing out of the cave. "I think it’s a part of nature and I think that it’s very important to keep nature clean."

“Clean up after yourself,” Basak said. "If you see something that is not left by you but you have the ability to collect it up, that would help us out a lot and to keep the lands a spot where people can enjoy coming back to."