Conservation and Preservation Policies

Compiled from experience, these guidelines encourage practices that minimize negative impacts to caves. Cave resources are often irreplaceable. Move gently and be good stewards. Think safety—take care of yourself and your team. Take care of the caves.

Conservation Policy

The National Speleological Society believes: That caves have unique scientific, recreational, and scenic values; That these values are endangered by both carelessness and intentional vandalism; That these values, once gone, cannot be recovered; and that the responsibility for protecting caves must be assumed by those who study and enjoy them.

Accordingly, the intention of the Society is to work for the preservation of caves with a realistic policy supported by effective programs for: the encouragement of self-discipline among cavers; education and research concerning the causes and prevention of cave damage; and special projects, including cooperation with other groups similarly dedicated to the conservation of natural areas. Specifically:

All contents of a cave--formations, life, and loose deposits--are significant for its enjoyment and interpretation. Therefore, caving parties should leave a cave as they find it. They should provide means for the removal of waste; limit marking to a few, small and removable signs as are needed for surveys; and, especially, exercise extreme care not to accidentally break or soil formations, disturb life forms or unnecessarily increase the number of disfiguring paths through an area.

Scientific collection is professional, selective and minimal. The collecting of mineral or biological material for display purposes, including previously broken or dead specimens, is never justified, as it encourages others to collect and destroys the interest of the cave.

The Society encourages projects such as: establishing cave preserves; placing entrance gates where appropriate; opposing the sale of speleothems; supporting effective protective measures; cleaning and restoring over-used caves; cooperating with private cave owners by providing knowledge about their cave and assisting them in protecting their cave and property from damage during cave visits; and encouraging commercial cave owners to make use of their opportunity to aid the public in understanding caves and the importance of their conservation.

Where there is reason to believe that publication of cave locations will lead to vandalism before adequate protection can be established, the Society will oppose such publication.

It is the duty of every Society member to take personal responsibility for spreading a consciousness of the cave conservation problem to each potential user of caves. Without this, the beauty and value of our caves will not long remain with us.

Preservation Policy

Caves, and areas of karst and pseudokarst development, are sensitive environments which often interact with surface and subsurface waters and ecosystems. They frequently harbor recreational, historical, and natural resources of considerable significance.

The National Speleological Society believes that all caves and cavernous areas are important; that cave wilderness, like surface wilderness, is a valuable resource that should be protected regardless of official designations or boundaries; and that caves and cavernous areas, with their unique environment and development, may require management measures which are independent of geographic boundaries or designations established for the management of other surface or subsurface resources.

Accordingly, the Society endorses, supports, and advocates the implementation of the following precepts:

  • No cave or cavernous area should be altered or modified without a full, balanced, and conservative study of the impact of such action, including input from knowledgeable persons specifically experienced in the exploration and scientific study of caves and cave resources.
  • Cave resources should be protected by keeping wild caves wild and free from human manipulations and alterations that hamper the free play of natural forces, endanger the cave and karst ecosystems, or diminish the pleasure of future visitors.
  • Special efforts should be made to preserve the integrity of ecological and hydrologic systems within caves and cavernous terrains.

Where formal designation of Cave Wilderness is a useful tool in protecting this resource, the National Speleological Society will support such designation through actions of its Board of Governors.

Permission is granted to share, repost, reprint, or use this these bullet points to build protocols for specific caves or cave regions.