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Cave Conservation

Caves and karst regions are fragile resources that have unique scientific and recreational value, serve as water supplies for communities, and provide habitats for rare and endangered species. Conservation of these resources needs to be a concern for all who use or impact the cave environment as well as those communities in karst areas which are dependant on ground water. There are many excellent resources available for cave conservation so we won't try to duplicate them here. Please take some time to browse through the links on this page to learn more about cave conservation and what you can do to contribute.

The National Speleological Society (NSS) Conservation committee provides an excellent set of conservation resources including conservation brochures, instructional papers for individual and group involvement and links to a wide variety of other conservation organizations and resources. Read the NSS Conservation Policy to get a better understanding of conservation issues.

Conservation Tips

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All caves are owned by someone, whether it be a private property owner like a farmer, a business such as a lumber company, or a local, state or federal government. Respect the owner's property rights, make sure you have permission to enter the cave, and observe any rules or restrictions the owner may specify. Limited access cave lists, like the Virgina Region list , are maintained for many areas.

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Caves in many states (including Virginia and West Virginia ) are protected by state laws that impose severe penalties for damage or removal from caves of formations, cave life or historical artifacts. In addition many caves are habitats for endangered species that are protected by federal and state laws. Such caves may be closed during specific seasons or, in a few cases, year round.

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Avoid touching cave formations, particularly with muddy gloves, clothing or boots - many are quite fragile and mud on your hands can become embedded in the formations. Formations can include features like flowstone on walls and rimstone dams on the floor.

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Stay on established trails through the cave to avoid tracking mud into pristine area. If you can't get into a passage without damaging formations, look for another way around. In some cases it might be appropriate to sacrifice a few formations to continue exploration, but this is the exception and it is usually not your decision to make - see the first two items above.

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Never write or mark on cave walls or other surfaces, and do not leave food, trash of any kind, or human waste in the cave.

Adopt the NSS Motto: "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time." (and keep those footprints on the established trails!)

A sampling of the many cave-related conservation organizations are listed below:

  • American Cave Conservation Association (ACCA) - a national, non-profit association dedicated to the protection of caves, karst lands and groundwater.
  • Bat Conservation International -formed to protect and restore bats and their habitats worldwide teaching people to understand and value bats as essential allies through education; protecting critical bat habitats and encouraging others to join in conservation efforts; and advancing scientific knowledge about bats, their conservation needs, and the ecosystems that rely on them, through research.
  • Cave Conservancy of the Virginias - formed for the purpose of protecting and managing caves and karst resources in Virginia and West Virginia
  • Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy - established for the purposes of preserving, ensuring access to, acquiring, and managing caves and karst areas for conservation, scientific study, and recreational caving; and education of landowners, cavers, and the general public in the importance of karst resources and ways to preserve them.
  • Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc . - formed to acquire and manage caves for scientific study, education of those persons interested in speleology, and conservation of these resources.
  • Texas cave Conservancy - The TCC supports recreational use, not abuse, where appropriate. Through the development of some cave preserves open for limited public use, the long term goal of cave protection can better be achieved.
  • West Virginia Cave Conservancy (WVCC) - dedicated to preserving the cave and karsts resources of West Virginia for future generations.

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  Copyright 2002-2004, Bob Robins
  Last Updated: February 25, 2007