Mid-Appalachian Region of
the National Speleological Society
CAVE LAWS & ACTS
Virginia Cave Protection Act
Reprinted from the 1985 Code of Virginia 1950, pages 229-232.
10-150.11 Legislative findings and policy
The General assembly hereby finds that caves are
uncommon geologic phenomena, and that the minerals
deposited therein may be rare and occur in unique forms
of great beauty which are irreplaceable if destroyed.
Also irreplaceable are the archaeological resources in
caves which are of great scientific and historic value.
It is further found that the organisms which live in
caves are unusual and of limited numbers, that many are
rare and endangered species; and that caves are a natural
conduit for groundwater flow and are highly subject to
water pollution, thus having far- reaching effects
transcending man's property boundaries. It is therefor
declared to be the policy of the General Assembly and the
intent of this chapter to protect these unique natural
and cultural resources. (1979, c.252)
As used in this chapter, the following words shall have the meanings stated unless the context requires otherwise:
A. "Cave" means any
naturally occurring void, cavity, recess, or system of
interconnecting passages beneath the surface of the earth
or within a cliff or ledge including natural subsurface
water and drainage systems, but not including any mine,
tunnel, aqueduct, or other man-made excavation, which is
large enough to permit a person to enter. The term
"cave" includes or is synonymous with cavern,
sinkhole, natural pit, grotto, and rock shelter.
B. "Commercial cave" means
any cave utilized by the owner for the purposes of
exhibition to the general public as a profit or
non-profit enterprise, wherein a fee is collected for
C. "Gate" means any
structure or device located to limit or prohibit access
or entry to any cave.
D. "Sinkhole" means a
closed topographic depression or basin, generally
draining underground, including, but not restricted to, a
doline, uvala, blind valley, or sink.
E. "Person" or
"persons" means any individual, partnership,
firm, association, trust or corporation or other legal
F. "Owner" means a person
who owns title to land where a cave is located, including
a person who owns title to a leasehold estate in such
land, and specifically including the Commonwealth and any
of its agencies, departments, boards, bureaus,
commissions or authorities, as well as counties,
municipalities and other political subdivisions of the
G. "Speleothem" means A
natural mineral formation or deposit occurring in a cave.
The term includes, or is synonymous with, stalagmite,
stalactite, helectite, shield, anthodite, gypsum flower
and needle, angel's hair, soda straw, drapery, bacon,
cave pearl, popcorn (coral), rimstone dam, column,
palette, flowstone, et cetera. Speleothems are commonly
composed of calcite, epsomite, gypsum, aragonite,
celestite and other similar minerals.
H. "Speleogen" means an
erosional feature of the cave boundary and includes or is
synonymous with anastomoses, scallops, rills, flutes,
spongework, and pendants.
I. "Material" means all or
any part of any archeological, paleontological,
biological or historical item including but not limited
to, any petroglyph, pictograph, basketry, human remains,
tool, beads, pottery, projectile point, remains of
historical mining activity or any other occupation, found
in a cave.
J. "Cave life" means any
life form which normally occurs in, uses, visits or
inhabits any cave or subterranean water system, excepting
those animals and species covered by any of the game laws
of the Commonwealth. (1979, c.252)
10-150.13 Vandalism; penalties
A. It shall be unlawful for any
person, without express, prior, written permission of the
(1). Break, break off, crack, carve
upon, write, burn, or otherwise mark upon, remove, or in
any manner destroy, disturb, deface, mar or harm the
surfaces of any cave or any natural material which may be
found therein, whether attached or broken, including
speleothems, speleogens, and sedimentary deposits. The
provision of this section shall not prohibit minimal
disturbance for scientific exploration.
(2). Break, force, tamper with, or
otherwise disturb a lock, gate, door, or other
obstruction designed to control or prevent access to any
cave, even though entrance thereto may not be gained.
(3). Remove, deface, tamper with a sign
stating that a cave is posted or citing provisions of
(4). Excavate, remove, destroy, injure,
deface, or in any manner disturb any burial grounds,
historic or prehistoric resources, archeological or
paleontological site or any part thereof, including
relics, inscriptions, saltpeter workings, fossils, bones,
remains of historical human activity, or any other such
features which may be found in any cave, except those
caves owned by the Commonwealth or designated as
Commonwealth archaeological sites or zones, and which are
subject to the provisions of the Virginia Antiquities Act
(10-150.1 et seq.).
B. The entering and remaining in a
cave which has not been posted by the owner shall not by
itself constitute a violation of this section.
C. Any violation of this section
shall be punished as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
D. The provision of this section
shall not apply to an owner of a cave on his own
10-150.14 Pollution; penalties
A. It shall be unlawful for any
person, without express, prior, written permission of the
owner, to store, dump, litter, dispose of or otherwise
place any refuse, garbage, dead animals, sewage, or toxic
substances harmful to cave life or humans, in any cave or
sinkhole. It shall also be unlawful to burn within a cave
or sinkhole any material which produces any smoke or gas
which is harmful to any naturally occurring organism in
B. Any violation of this section shall be punished as a Class 1 misdemeanor. (1979, c. 252; 1982, c.81.)
10-150.15 Disturbance of naturally occurring organisms; scientific collecting permits; penalties
A. It shall be unlawful to remove,
kill, harm, or otherwise disturb any naturally occurring
organisms within any cave, except for safety or health
reasons; provided, however, scientific collecting permits
may be obtained from any cave commission established for
such purpose or from the appropriate state agency.
B. Any violation of this section
shall be punished as a Class 3 misdemeanor. (1979, c.
10-150.16 Archaeology; permits for excavation; how obtained; penalties
B. In addition to the written
permission of the owner required by 10.150.13
of this Code, a person must also obtain a permit from the
Department of Conservation and Historic Resources prior
to excavating or removing any archaeological,
paleontological, prehistoric, or historic feature of any
cave. The Department shall issue a permit to excavate or
remove such a feature if it finds that it is in the best
interest of the Commonwealth and that the applicant meets
the criteria of this section and is an historic,
scientific, or educational institution, professional
archaeologist or amateur, who is qualified and recognized
in the areas of field investigations or archaeology. The
permit shall be renewed upon expiration. Such permit
shall not be transferable; however, the provision of this
section shall not preclude any person from working under
the direct supervision of the permittee.
C. All field investigations,
explorations, or recovery operations undertaken under
this section shall be carried out under the general
supervision of the Department of Conservation and
Historic Resources and in a manner to ensure that the
maximum amount of historic, scientific, archaeologic, and
educational information may be recovered and preserved in
addition to the physical recovery of objects.
D. A person applying for a permit
pursuant to this section shall:
(1). Have knowledge of archaeology or
history as qualified in subsection B hereof.
(2). Provide a detailed statement to
the Department giving the reasons and objectives for
excavation or removal and the benefits to be obtained
from the contemplated work.
(3). Provide data and results of any
completed excavation, study, or collection at the first
of each calendar year.
(4). Obtain the prior written
permission of the owner if the site of the proposed
excavation is on privately owned land.
(5). Carry the permit while exercising
the privileges granted.
E. Any person who fails to obtain a
permit required under subsection B hereof shall be guilty
of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Any violation of subsection D
hereof shall be punished as a Class 3 misdemeanor, and
the permit shall be revoked.
F. The provision of this section
shall not apply to any person in any cave located on his
own property. (1979, c. 252; 1982, c. 81; 1984, c. 750.)
10-150.17 Sale of Speleothems; penalties
It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or offer
for sale any speleothems in this Commonwealth, or to
export them for sale outside the Commonwealth. Any
violation of this section shall be punished as a Class 1
misdemeanor. (1979, c. 252; 1982, c. 81.)
10-150.18 Liability of owners and agents limited; sovereign immunity of Commonwealth not waived.
Neither the owner of a cave or his authorized agents acting within the scope of their authority are liable for injuries sustained by any person using the cave for recreational or scientific purposes if no charge has been made for the use of the cave, notwithstanding that an inquiry as to the experience or expertise of the individual seeking consent may have been made.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to constitute a waiver of the sovereign immunity of the Commonwealth or any of its boards, departments, bureaus, or agencies. (1979, c. 252.)
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