Cave Conservancy Home


Thomas Lera

NSS Administrative Vice-President from 2001 to 2004

Previously published in the National Cave Conservancies Issues program and the NSS Board of Governors Manual


The National Speleological Society began in 1941 as a collective of individuals interested in caves and caving. From the beginning, we recognized the need to protect the fragile and timeless environment underground. Conservation has always been a prime tenet of the foundations of the NSS.


Through the 40's and 50's, the Society was concerned about other peoples' caves.  With the rising environmentalism of the 60's, NSS conservation efforts took on a more personal note, when we acquired our own cave.  The donation of McFails Cave, in Schoharie County, NY, was the first of thirteen properties now owned or managed by the Society.


The NSS Cave Preserves are our commitment to future generations.  A local Management Committee cares for each preserve.  These committees report to the NSS Board of Governors, through the Cave Preserve Committee, under the Department of the Administrative Vice-President.


Each Management Committee has overall responsibility for the upkeep, security, and general well being of the property.  As with most NSS functions, the Preserves rely on local cavers to provide the required labor for day-to-day activities.  What follows is a discussion of the current NSS Cave Preserves and the Policies for Cave and Karst Acquisition and Grant Applications (Appendix L) and the policy for the Outline for writing a Cave Management Plan (Appendix Z). 



Cave Preserves of the National Speleological Society


W. Gary Bush, Cave Preserves Committee Chair


Preserve Name                                                    County                   State                       Acres                     Status    Date Acquired     



McFails Cave Preserve                                       Schoharie              NY                          2                              Owned   Aug. 11, 1965

                Tom Rider


Shelta Cave Preserve                                           Madison                AL                          12                            Owned   Sept., 1967             Paul Meyer


John Guilday Cave Preserve                              Pendleton              WV                         41.6                         Owned   Mar. 15, 1983         Dave West


Kingston Saltpeter Cave Preserve*                  Barton                    GA                          40                            Leased   June 21, 1983         Larry Blair


Barton Hill Karst Preserve                  Schoharie              NY                          40                            Owned   Dec. 22, 1987         Thom Engel


Warren Cave Preserve                                        Alachua                 FL                           4                              Owned   June 3, 1991           Bill Oldacre


Donald R. Russell Cave Preserve                      Adair                      OK                          20                            Owned   Sept. 1, 1991          Don Russell


Alachua Sinks Preserve                                      Alachua                 FL                           8.6                           Owned   Dec. 6, 1993           Jim Taylor


Schoharie Caverns Preserve                              Schoharie              NY                          13.3                         Owned   Mar. 21, 1995         Bob Addis


Tytoona Cave Preserve                                      Blair                        PA                          6.8                           Owned   Dec. 23, 1997         Garrett Czmor


Great Expectations Cave Preserve                     Big Horn                WY                         40                            Owned Jan. 2003                  Bob Montgomery


Well Cave Preserve                                             Pulaski                   KY                          3                              Owned April 2003            Lee Florea


The Potter Unit Cave Preserve                          Cherokee               OK                          192                          Owned Jan 2004                   Billy Howard               


* Managed for the Felburn Foundation


Alachua Sink Preserve


In late 1992 and early 1993, the NSS completed negotiations to accept the donation of Alachua Sink, located in the city of Alachua, Florida.  Alachua Sink is a completely water-filled cave, the sink being the only window into the underground Alachua Stream System.  The surface stream system is dissected by more than 10 swallow holes that divert water underground, draining a basin of over 70 square miles.


The NSS Cave Diving Section manages the Alachua Sink property.  A fence and locked gate is maintained around the sink.  Access to the cave will be permitted to only the highest qualified cave divers because of the nature and complexity of the underwater cave system.  Visitation is permitted for research, data collection, water sampling, and survey/mapping.  No training activities are allowed.


Barton Hill Karst Preserve


Located in Schoharie County, New York, the Barton Hill Karst Preserve is 12 miles east of the NSS-owned McFails Cave and 9 miles west of the Northeastern Cave Conservancy’s Knox Cave.  The Preserve is situated on 40 acres and contains 3 known caves and 310 acres of cave rights.  The bulk of the Preserve is a limestone bench characterized by numerous sinkholes and solutionally enlarged joints. All drainage is underground.  The acreage is almost entirely covered by a northeastern hardwood forest.


Three caves exist on the property: Gage Caverns (historically known as Balls Cave), Keyhole Cave, and Greene’s Cave.  Discovered in 1831 by Peter Ball, Gage Caverns is one of the oldest known caves in the state of New York with over 3,000 feet of mapped passage.  During early exploration, most of its formations were removed and shipped around the United States to adorn the collections of practical geologists and state museums.


James Gage donated the Preserve to the National Speleological Foundation in December of 1987.  The NSF deeded the property to the National Speleological Society in 1996.  Members of the National Speleological Society manage the Preserve and the caves for recreation and education.  All individuals wishing to gain access must obtain permission from the committee and sign a release form.


Donald R. Russell Cave Preserve


In mid-1991, Mr. Don Russell donated two tracts of land in Adair County, Oklahoma to the NSS for the purpose of creating a biological preserve.  There is one cave and several cave remnants on the property.  The main cave, Linda Bear Paw Cave, is used by a large colony of endangered gray bats (Myotis grisescens). One of the cave remnants is hibernaculum for a colony of Ozark big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens). This colony represents as much as one-third of the known population of this species. The Nature Conservancy, who manages a cave containing a colony of some 25,000 gray bats, owns land surrounding the Russell Cave Preserve.


Because this property was acquired with the purpose of establishing a biological preserve and human visitation would be detrimental to the survival of the bat populations, no visitation is allowed. This is a continuation of the long-standing policy of the previous owner.


Great Expectations Cave (Great X) Preserve


Great Expectations contains almost 8 miles of surveyed passage with a vertical extent of over 1,400 feet.  It is the third deepest limestone cave in the United States, the second deepest cave in Wyoming, and the second longest cave in Wyoming.  Great Expectations Cave contains Wyoming's largest room, The Great Hall, which is over 2,000 feet long and up to 100 feet high and wide.  Great X is located at 8,500 feet elevation on a pristine creek in the Big Horn Mountains, east of Greybull in Big Horn County, Wyoming.


The creek sinks into the cave at the entrance and reappears approximately six miles down the canyon, near the Lower entrance to the cave, the Great Exit. The Great Exit, near the "Grim Crawl of Death," is on federal land managed by the US Bureau of Land Management.  This high altitude karst area contains several other significant caves including Tres Charros Cave, Bad Medicine Cave, and P-Bar Cave.


The NSS acquired the land containing the main (upper) entrance to Great Expectations Cave and Johnny Creek Cave in January 2003.  The property has an eastern boundary with the Bighorn National Forest and a northern boundary with lands managed by the US Bureau of Land Management. The western and southern boundaries border private land. The NSS has acquired the property from the landowner to the south. The cave is accessible for about six months a year by four-wheel drive vehicles or those with high clearance.


The Society intends that NSS members shall be ensured reasonable access and use of the cave and the surface property for recreation, exploration, science, and surveying.  The Great Expectations Cave Management Committee is responsible for managing the Preserve.


John Guilday Cave Preserve


In 1983 the NSS completed the purchase of 40 acres of forested land at Trout Rocks near Franklin, West Virginia.  This property contains the entrances to three well-known, popular caves: Trout, New Trout, and Hamilton.  Each cave is over a mile long and each has been the site of significant paleontological excavations.  The property has been designated the John E. Guild­ay Memorial Cave Preserve in honor of John Guilday who was one of the foremost paleontologists in the country working with cave deposited materials (and a long-time NSS member).  He was research curator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and he made the initial paleontological studies in Trout Cave.


The cave preserve committee manages the cave preserve with goals of encouraging bat hibernation re-establishment and preservation of the paleontological sites, as well as continued recreational caving.


Kingston Saltpeter Cave Preserve


The Kingston Saltpeter Cave Preserve in Bartow County, Georgia, is composed of 40 acres of largely hardwood forest, underlain by a variety of wildflowers and mosses.  The area is teeming with wildlife. The Preserve is located almost entirely on and along the flanks of a large isolated dolomite knob, providing an incredible vista in all directions.  Outcroppings of the Knox series of dolomite are found, along with an array of multicolored agates.  The focal point of the Preserve is the Kingston Saltpeter Cave.


In late 1983 the Felburn Foundation acquired the property in order to preserve, maintain, and protect it for future generations.  The NSS manages the cave under an agreement with the Felburn Foundation.  To date, the acquisition, improvement, and maintenance of the cave and property has been at no cost to the Society, and all expenses are being borne by the Felburn Foundation and the Project co-directors.


A permanent committee of the NSS administers the Kingston Saltpeter Cave Preserve.  Barriers on the cave entrances and along the access road have been constructed, the property posted, and the cave has undergone a thorough cleaning by NSS members with care having been taken to preserve any items of historical value.


McFails Cave Preserve


New York’s McFails Cave in Schoharie County, with over 6.7 miles of mapped passage, is the longest cave in the northeastern United States.  Managing this cave is the job of the McFails Cave Committee.  The committee makes sure that the parking area and the trails at the McFails Cave Preserve are maintained through the use of gates at the two entrances.


Through NSS ownership, research has been conducted in and around the McFails Cave Preserve.  Currently, the emphasis is on hydrogeology and exploration.


Schoharie Caverns Preserve


Mary and Jennifer Gage donated Schoharie Caverns and the surrounding 13 acres in 1994.  This location, in Schoharie County, NY, has been a central base for caving since the 1950's.


Schoharie Cave is over 4,000 feet long, with half of that length beyond a scuba dive sump.  A total of five sumps have been penetrated.  The part of the cave accessible without scuba equipment is primarily a single vadose canyon, consisting of 2,000 feet of walking passage, with ceiling heights from 10 to 80 feet.  This is a wet, difficult cave with a temperature of 45 degrees.  Bob Addis chairs the Preserve Committee.


Shelta Cave Preserve


Shelta Cave is located directly beneath the NSS National Headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama.  It was the second NSS-owned cave, purchased in 1967.  The cave has one of the most outstanding underground ecosystems in North America.  It is the type locality for several species of cave life, three beetles, two crayfish, a shrimp, and three other arthropods.  Many other species are found in the cave.  Shelta Cave continues to serve as the NSS’ laboratory for cave biology.


The entrance to Shelta Cave is gated, but access is open to NSS members.  If you are interested in visiting it, contact the cave patron, Bill Torode.



Tytoona Cave Preserve


Tytoona Cave Preserve is located in Sinking Valley, Blair County, Pennsylvania, between the cities of Tyrone and Altoona (hence the name).  This is the 10th and newest cave preserve owned by the NSS.  Containing 6.8 acres of property, the preserve was purchased from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy on December 23, 1997.


Tytoona has been noted as one of the most significant caves in the state.  Rich with history that dates back to 1788, it has been mentioned in early publications and county maps.  Two attempts in the past (1947 and 1972) to commercialize the cave were short-lived and today little or no trace can be found of those early business ventures.


This cave contains about a mile of trunk passage, divided by water sumps, and a few large dry rooms.  In one of the sump-protected rooms, very significant formations exist.  Mother Nature protects this area of the cave through sumps; only those qualified in cave sump diving are allowed to enter.


The downstream portion of the cave system exits at Arch Spring. The Arch is privately owned and not located on the Tytoona Cave Preserve property.  However, permission can be obtained to visit this site from the landowner.


Perhaps one of Tytoona’s greatest strengths is its educational and recreational value.  This cave has been host to many youth groups, college students, and cavers as an educational tool to teach and learn about caves, caving, and conservation.  The first 1,000 feet of passage offers easy caving.  A well-known natural landmark, Tytoona has an exceptionally attractive entrance along with photogenic qualities of the landscape, making it a popular site.


The property is to be managed as a natural area.  The management consists of a chief director and cave committee.  Visitors are reminded to use only the established trails on the property.  Visitors are allowed daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.


Warren Cave Preserve


The Nature Conservancy donated Warren Cave in Alachua County, Florida to the NSS in early 1991.  The Nature Conservancy had held the property since acquiring it in 1976 with the help of the Florida Speleological Society.  The Warren Cave Preserve Committee now oversees the Warren Cave property with assistance from the Florida Speleological Society.


Warren Cave is the longest known dry cave in Florida with over four miles of mapped passage.  The cave is presently gated but visitation is allowed.


Wells Cave Preserve


In January 2003, the Wells Cave Preserve became the 10th cave property owned by the NSS and the 11th NSS Preserve.  Wells Cave has a long history within Pulaski County, Kentucky. The large main entrance, combined with several other entrances, provides easy access. Its location, near the communities of Mt. Victory and Poplarville, in southeastern Pulaski County and along the primary road between Somerset, London, and the Rockcastle River (a vital coal, logging, and saltpetre trade route in the 1800's) gave Wells Cave much attention and use throughout the years.


Wells Cave Preserve consists of 3 acres and includes 2 entrances to a historically, geologically, and biologically significant 11.5 mile-long cave. The cave also serves as an educational tool for those interested in speleogenesis, paleo-climates and hydrology, and cave management. This cave has attracted many people into joining caving organizations, not just for its recreational, but also the scientific value. It is well visited and well known to the community.


The Management policy is to continue with past practice of allowing people on the property with minimum restrictions. Restrictions are only for reasons of better management, and to protect the property through recommendations of the Management Committee.


The Management Committee is responsible for enforcing both NSS and Wells Cave Preserve access guidelines. Wells Cave will be open to responsible caving all year.


The Potter Unit Cave Preserve


In October 2003, the Potter Unit Cave Preserve was accepted by the NSS.   The Potter Unit Cave Preserve objectives include protecting habitat to assure the continuing existence and aid in recovery of federally listed endangered and threatened Ozark cave species and reduce the need for future listing of species of concern in the Ozarks.  Federally listed endangered and threatened species known to occur on this land are the Ozark big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens) and gray bats (Myotis grisescens).  There are two caves, Crystal Cave and Blue Moon Cave, on the Cave Preserve, along with a Natural Bridge and many karst features.  The Management Plan is currently being written and hopefully will be submitted to the BOG at the 2004 NSS Convention Meeting.





August 8, 2003  (Refer to Acts 26-587 and 26-599)




Overview and Introduction


The NSS Board of Governors (Board) shall consider acquiring properties for the Society that contain caves, cave entrances, or significant karst features when acquisition Proposals and Management Plans are presented that are in line with purposes of the Society. A cave purchase is a significant commitment of resources, which makes a very visible statement about the Society’s values and the significance of the cave properties we acquire.

The NSS acquires cave properties on a selective and infrequent basis, preferring to support cave conservancies in their efforts to preserve and protect caves and karst resources. The NSS has neither the financial resources to acquire, nor the personnel to manage every deserving cave property that is a candidate for ownership; therefore the Society must be selective in its acquisitions.

As an alternative to ownership or direct management, the Society generally prefers to award grants and/or provide other support to cave conservancies to assist in their efforts to protect caves and karst resources. Grant requests will be evaluated by the same criteria, with the exception of national significance, as properties considered for NSS purchase.


Developing Proposals


Proposals and Management Plans will include information and rationale as described in Appendix Z of the NSS Board Manual.

The Criteria for Cave Ownership and Procedures to follow when considering NSS Ownership shall be made readily available to the NSS membership to help determine if a cave property meets these criteria before a Proposal and a Management Plan are prepared.


Evaluation Process


Stage One


The Cave and Karst Acquisitions Committee Chairman will evaluate the Proposal and Management Plan to determination if the proposed cave property acquisition meets the NSS Criteria for Cave Ownership, included in this policy document.

If the cave property does not meet these criteria, it will not be given further consideration for NSS ownership or funding. The NSS may refer the proponents of the acquisition to a state or regional cave conservancy, if one exists, for consideration of the proposal.


Stage Two


The NSS Cave and Karst Acquisitions Committee and the NSS Board of Governors shall assess the Proposal and the Management Plan for the cave property using the Evaluation Criteria for NSS Ownership, included in this policy document. At that time, the NSS Board of Governors is encouraged to ask questions of the Cave Acquisition Committee and the authors of the proposal as a part of their decision making process. Each cave acquisition is unique, and will be evaluated on its own value and merits.


The purchase proposal and management plan shall be formally presented to the NSS Board for approval, and the Board shall base its purchase decision on the Standards and the Criteria for NSS Ownership, and on the best interests of the NSS.




Alternatives to NSS acquisition


The NSS Board should consider other acquisition options as alternatives to the NSS purchasing property. The Society shall use the standards, evaluation criteria, and review process that is outlined in this policy in considering such alternatives.




Donation of the property to the NSS

The NSS will hold title to the property, and will manage the property. In this case, the NSS does not make a financial commitment for a land purchase, although the NSS is responsible for the costs of improving and maintaining the property.

Obtaining a conservation easement for the property

The current owner will continue to own and use the property, subject to the terms of a Conservation Easement held by the NSS.

Lease of property to the NSS


Temporary NSS ownership


This could be considered if an NSS-affiliated organization would like to purchase a cave property, however needs time to establish sufficient funding and/or management structure. The NSS may consider entering into a written contract in which the Society buys the cave property on a short-term basis for later sale to an organization. In this case, the NSS would serve as a facilitator and temporary owner in order to prevent the candidate property from being lost to the caving community.


Direct purchase by an NSS-affiliated organization


The NSS may provide a loan or grant, or enter into another financial agreement with an NSS-affiliated organization who is prepared to manage a property jointly with the NSS, or independently. In this case the NSS shall evaluate the property using the same elements of the NSS Criteria for Cave Ownership and the proposed management plan. However, the standards for evaluating these caves may be based on regional or statewide attributes, rather than on the national perspective used for Society acquisitions.


NSS Criteria for Cave Ownership


Science, protection & Fellowship


The NSS shall only consider acquiring caves, or supporting cave acquisitions, that meet the purposes of the Society: “… to promote interest in and to advance in any and all ways the study and science of speleology, the protection of caves and their natural contents, and to promote fellowship among those interested therein.” The cave or karstland should also have one or more significant attributes.


General Attributes


The property has national significance, by being outstanding in one or more of the categories by which caves are measured or evaluated: size, length, depth, biota, and/or geological, cultural or historic value. Regardless of the particular measure that is used, the screening criteria would require that the cave's values of interest to the NSS be quantifiable, and comparable with those of other caves.


The property has outstanding examples of a broad class of caves or karstlands in a given category. The property must contain certain features or values that are considered excellent representative examples of these features, and that would add value and variety to the portfolio of property owned by the NSS. For example: an outstanding example of a New England marble cave, a New Mexico gypsum cave, a well developed lava cave, or alpine karst.


Procedures to Follow when Considering NSS Ownership or Support




After a proposal for acquiring or leasing a cave or karst property has met the NSS Criteria for Cave Ownership the proposal shall be evaluated in accordance with the following procedures. The information necessary for this evaluation should be contained in the Acquisition Proposal.   The requirements for accepting donated property do not need to be as stringent as those used to assess purchases.

These requirements shall also be evaluated when evaluating a grant proposal.


Financial Assessment



Obtain one or more appraisals to determine the value of the property. The presence of a cave does not make a property more valuable, regardless of how desirable it may be to the NSS. Without an appraisal, a donor cannot properly receive tax credit, the NSS cannot state its worth, and we cannot evaluate whether the price reflects fair market value. The NSS, as a guideline, shall not pay more than 10% over fair market value as documented by a credible appraisal. This is an IRS recommendation for non-profit corporations.

Appraisals can be important negotiating tools. The NSS should consider hiring two appraisers, one selected by the NSS and one selected by the seller.


Professional Land Survey


Offers should be made contingent upon a survey that provides evidence that the cave and/or its entrance are included on the property to be purchased.


Acquisition Expenses

Establish whether the asking price is the fair market value of the property.

Evaluate the total expenses of the purchase, and endeavor to obtain the property for the lowest price possible. Consider closing costs, survey expenses, legal fees, taxes, and the expenses of the NSS President and Treasurer closing the deal from a long distance.

Determine if the expenditure is within the financial resources available to the NSS.

Consider whether a portion of the property with lesser interest to the NSS can be sold later to recover some or all of the acquisition costs.

In the case of a donated property that may not meet the NSS standards for ownership determine whether the NSS may sell or transfer the property to a suitable entity or if the donation is restricted.


Sources of Funds

Determine the source of funds for the acquisition expenses, and evaluate the effect of the expenditure on the ability of the NSS to continue to function and provide membership services effectively.

Examples to consider for funding include: the NSS Cave Acquisition Restricted Fund; a fund-raising appeal or project; donations by cavers local to the property; other NSS Restricted Funds; bank loan; and a loan or grant from the National Speleological Foundation, conservation organization or other foundation.


Operating Costs


Evaluate and calculate the costs to improve and maintain the property. Consider utilities, gates, structures, mowing, road grading, fences, taxes and insurance.



Determine the Society’s liability under the recreation use and landowner protection statutes of the state where the property is located.

Consider the liability risks for the NSS for the level of access proposed for the cave and property.

Inventory any hazards on the property or in the cave. These may include: pits, unstable terrain, hazardous wastes, lakes, buildings, bridges, wells, trash dumps. Determine whether these will have an impact on insurance coverage. Consider obtaining an environmental assessment of the property.

If there is any possibility that there has been hazardous or special waste disposal on the property, a Phase 1 Investigation should be conducted prior to closing. In this case, no offer should be made unless it is contingent upon hazardous or special waste not being present on the property.


Other Interests

Assess and consider the neighborhood around the proposed acquisition, and its possible effects on the cave and property, its ecosystem, the safety and enjoyment of the visitors to the property, and the success of the property as a nature preserve.

Important factors include: neighbors and their activities and interests, commercial development, zoning regulations, possible uses of adjacent land, and previous uses of the property.

Determine if the Society is prepared to deal with the burdens that ownership of the property may present.




In consultation with the NSS Legal Committee, and a local lawyer if necessary, explore thoroughly and assess the property’s history and legal limitations. For example: restrictions, easements, rights of way, titles, mineral rights, water rights, back taxes, local development plans.

All closings shall have a title search performed and title insurance will be purchased.



Assess the Management Plan accompanying the Proposal for feasibility, suitability and effectiveness. The Management Plan should identify individuals or group committed to implementing the plan.

Consider the suitability of the group or individual expected to manage the property.

Determine if the neighbors are willing to contribute to the management or protection of the cave.


No Action Option


Consider the consequences, if any, of the NSS, or NSS-affiliated organization, not purchasing the cave property, and the opportunities that may be lost as a result. The NSS Board shall explore this topic thoroughly.

For example: consider other possible owners and uses of the land, and the effects on the cave and its environment, both positive and negative.


Benefits Assessment



The NSS Board must consider the benefits of ownership when a proposal for a cave acquisition or grant is presented.

Before a decision is reached, these benefits should be carefully weighed against the monetary costs and potential risks associated with cave ownership.

Potential benefits to the NSS, to NSS members, and to speleology may include:



The cave may contain outstanding and/or unique biological resources that are worthy of protection and scientific study; substantial and unusual speleothems or minerals also worthy of protection and study; or cultural, historical, and/or archeological values that should be conserved.

Purchasing the cave demonstrates our commitment to the conservation of these resources.



The cave may be viewed as an underground laboratory where substantial science has been and continues to be conducted. For example, it may contain a significant population of invertebrates being studied by biologists, have a complex hydrological regime, be developed in an unusual or unique geological setting, or be mineralogically rich or unusual.

Ownership of the cave by the NSS would enable studies to continue and would provide a natural facility where scientists can conduct studies in the future.




The cave may represent a significant local or regional recreational resource that would be lost to the caving community, if not acquired by the NSS.

Recreation is not a charter purpose of the NSS, however maintaining access to caves may reduce recreational pressure on more sensitive caves in the area, and provide a benefit to NSS members.



Ownership of a cave property may present an opportunity for the NSS to provide an educational program concerning caves, karst, and cave resources for both cavers and the public.

For example, non-caving groups could be taken to the cave and taught about cave geology, biology, and conservation. Inviting local groups, the media, and others who are not part of the caving community to experience the underground environment could further the Society’s conservation goals.


Accepting Acquisition and Grant Proposals


Review Process


Cave and Karst Acquisition proposals and grant proposals shall follow the procedures described in this policy and in the checklist in Enclosure One.


All proposals and grant requests for the purchase and management of cave and karst properties shall be submitted to the Cave and Karst Acquisition Committee (Committee) for review prior to consideration by the NSS Board of Governors. The Committee shall comment on the proposal and if necessary, will return it to the proponent organization for revisions.


Upon receipt of an acceptable proposal, the Committee shall submit the proposal and supporting documentation to the Administrative Vice-President within 30 days of receipt. The Chairman of the Committee shall also submit to the Administrative Vice President a written discussion of the proposal, including a recommendation, and reasons for the recommendation. The Administrative Vice President shall present the proposal and the Committee discussion to the Executive Committee, time permitting.


Following the Executive Committee discussion of the proposal, the Administrative Vice President shall, prior to the next NSS Board meeting, notify the Board of all positive and negative findings made by the Committee concerning the proposal, the Committee’s recommendation to the Executive Committee, the concurrence or non-concurrence of the Executive Committee with the recommendation, and the reasons for the Executive Committee's decision.


If either the Committee or the Executive Committee believes that the proposed acquisition, or grant, is both desirable and feasible, the Administrative Vice President shall present an appropriate motion to the Board.


If the Committee cannot make a recommendation (e.g. the chairmanship is vacant, there is a lack of consensus among Committee members), then the Administrative Vice President shall present the proposal and his/her evaluation to the Executive Committee and the Board.

















Enclosure One


Checklist for Acquisition and Supporting Discussion


·         Does the property have national or regional significance (this should be stated in the management plan)?

·         Does the cave or karst acquisition support the purposes of the NSS as stated in its Constitution?

·         How does the acquisition rank relative to other NSS expenditures? Is its significance commensurate with the required investment?

·         Is the cave located under the land to be purchased? Property rights extend into the earth, if the mineral rights have not been severed. Are we actually acquiring the cave or just an entrance to it? Can we obtain long-term permission to enter the neighboring property through our cave entrance? Are the neighbors willing to contribute to the management of the cave?

·         Is there a Management Plan in conformance with Appendix Z? Required by Board Act.




Without an appraisal, a donor cannot properly receive tax credit, the NSS cannot state its worth, and we cannot evaluate whether the price reflects fair market value. The NSS shall not pay more than 10% over fair market value as documented by a credible appraisal. This is an IRS recommendation for non-profit corporations. The presence of a cave does not make a property more valuable, however more desirable it may be to the NSS. Paying more than fair market value inflates land prices and reduces the total amount of money available to the caving community to protect and acquire cave and karst properties. Appraisals can be important negotiating tools. An independent party can state that the property is worth less than asking price. To provide a better sense of independence, the NSS may wish to consider hiring two appraisers, one selected by the NSS and one selected by the seller. Their appraisals can be used as negotiation limits.


Professional Land Survey


Offers should be made contingent upon a survey demonstrating that the cave and/or entrance are part of the property to be purchased. This is less important when considering a donation.


Mineral Rights


Mineral rights refer to the right to explore for and/or extract metal ores, oil, and rock. Quarries can mine our caves if we do not own the mineral rights. Further, it is unclear in case law whether we have legal access to caves on property on which we only hold surface rights. Case law is clear that we cannot prevent owners of mineral rights and their designees from exercising their rights. The NSS does not favor to purchase land without mineral rights.


Water Rights


Water rights refer to the right to exploit water and vary from state to state. If water plays an appreciable role in the values of the cave property, then it is critical that water cannot be diverted away from our property without NSS legal recourse.

Phase 1 Investigation


If there is any possibility that there has been hazardous or special waste disposal on the property, a Phase 1 investigation should be conducted prior to closing. No offer should be made unless it is contingent upon no hazardous or special waste being present on the property.


Title Search and Title Insurance


All closings will have a title search performed and title insurance will be purchased.


Grants from the NSS


When an organization requests a grant from the NSS for cave or karst acquisition, it is reasonable for the NSS to want assurance that the grant money is used for the intended purpose. As such, upon approval of the grant by the NSS Board of Governors, the NSS and the grantee will enter into a written agreement such that at the NSS's discretion, the grantee will repay the full grant amount if 1) within one year, the grantee fails to take legal ownership of cave/property; or 2) within ten years, the grantee sells, transfers, otherwise fails to manage the property in good faith as outline in the Management Plan in effect at the time of the agreement execution.


Donations of Cave and Karst Properties to the NSS


The standard for acceptance of donated property does not need to be as stringent as that of purchase or grant support. However, the recurrent and closing costs should be considered. It is important that the NSS ensure that the property does not entail a great liability to the NSS because of unnatural hazards associated with the property. In the case of a property that may not meet the NSS criteria for purchase, the Board should consider whether the donation is restricted. In other words, can the NSS sell or transfer the property to a suitable entity?






Outline for Writing a Cave Management Plan


The National Speleological Society Constitution states, "The purpose of this Society shall be to promote interest in and to advance in any and all ways the study and science of speleology, the protection of caves and their natural contents, and to promote fellowship among those interested therein."


As a management committee, you should keep these goals of the Society in mind as you develop your cave management plan. This outline is your guide for writing a workable management plan and includes various topics in areas you need to include in your management plan.


One of the great values of preparing a management plan is that it encourages a careful inventory of the property's resources and identifies potential management problems.




This section should include your intentions for the management of the cave. Most of your objectives for the property should be included.




This section should include a summary of the known history of the cave and the land that it lies under. Items such as whether it was used for saltpeter mining, whether it was ever commercialized, and who the previous property owners have been is of interest.




Probably the most important aspect of a management plan is the listing of resources. This section should indicate what is significant about the property and why the NSS should own it. This section should be divided into two sub-sections: underground and surface resources.


Each sub-section should detail as many resources as possible that may include the following:

A) Biological
B) Geological
C) Hydrological
D) Paleontological
E) Archeological
F) Historical

You should be just as concerned with topics such as surface streams, roads, easements for utilities, and other such related items. In each of these sub-sections the committee should list what they will do to protect and maintain these resources.




This section is one of the most important items of any cave management plan. In this section, the committee must list what requirements must be met by those who wish to visit the property and should state whether the cave is open only at certain times of the year, open all year, or not at all. The potential is great for misunderstanding and hard feelings if the access policies are not clear, fair, and widely known.


Your management plan should reflect the fact that all Society cave properties should be managed in such a way as to minimize the Society's liability in case of accidents. The management plan should state that NSS caves shall be managed in such ways as to qualify under state or local landowner liability exemption laws, to legally define unauthorized visitors as trespassers under local law, and to inform authorized visitors of the hazardous nature of the cave by requiring them to sign a liability release as directed by the Legal Committee.




When managing a cave, one must not assume that the management plan is effective. The cave should be monitored for degradation. The managers may evaluate the desirability and practicality of various monitoring strategies. The strategies may include, but are not limited to, photo monitoring, water quality monitoring, and periodic censusing of indicator species. In order for degradation to be noted, a baseline condition should be established as soon as possible. If monitoring indicates degradation of the cave, revising the management plan to minimize degradation should be considered and acted on as appropriate.




This section should include what types of publicity (if any) the committee will use to inform the general public about the use of the cave. The committee may wish to draw up a program for the use of the public to educate them on the need for cave preservation. Or, if the cave is in need of extended protection, the committee may opt to try to keep the cave obscure.




This section should list what the committee plans to do to manage the land around the cave. It should include whether or not the committee will close off the road to the cave, or if a road will be constructed; if the cave is going to be gated; if barricades or gates are to be installed on the road; what parking will be available and where. And since the surface has significant impact on the cave below, this section should also include topics on possible erosion problems, water sources, disposal of human wastes, disposal of carbide, and plans for periodic trash pickup.




This section should include what plans the committee has for the future of the committee and property (if any), what goals have been established, and how these goals will be realized.




There may be other items not included in this outline, which needed to be listed in the management plan by the committee. The committee should feel free to include, as many items of importance in this guideline, as they feel are needed for the management of the property.