- Associated Press - Sunday, February 7, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Geocaching is poised to make a comeback on Arizona trust lands after Gov. Doug Ducey recently ordered the reversal of a policy that banned the form of treasure and scavenger hunting in state parks and other public recreational areas.

The Arizona Republic reports (https://bit.ly/1SWT3M) the popular pastime was effectively prohibited on state land two years ago when the State Land Department ruled the practice of hiding caches for others conflicted with land permit rules.

Geocaching involves hiding trinkets and other items to find by tracking the objects’ GPS coordinates with smartphones, clues or compasses.

But geocachers - who considered themselves stewards of the land because they pick up litter while out scavenger hunting - began meeting with the governor’s staff and other officials, leading the governor to direct the policy change.

“Geocachers are ecstatic,” Mel Hockwitt, a retired small-business owner, told the Republic. “We’re basically offering hundreds of volunteers … that will work for the state for the betterment of the land. If we’re walking along anywhere going to find a geocache and we come upon litter, we take it back with us.”

Ducey said the prior policy had misunderstood geocaching, which involves creating an account on geocaching.com where coordinates or clues are mapped out for others to find hidden objects, trinkets or logbooks.

There are more than 2 million geocache spots worldwide.

A memo issued Jan. 27 by Land Commissioner Lisa Atkins outlines new geocaching rules for state trust lands, saying:

- Geocachers will have to pay $15 for a recreation permit to go hunting for the small treasures on state land.

- Objects left behind on state land for geocaching cannot be bigger than a shoebox, hazardous or harmful, or considered high in value.

- The state isn’t liable for reimbursing geocachers for lost items left behind.

- State officials can remove and destroy caches at any time.

- And they don’t have to notify geocachers when land goes up for lease or sale.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, https://www.azcentral.com

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