Archives for 2001

Southeastern Cave Conservancy Acquires Snail Shell Cave

We are pleased to announce that the Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc. has completed its purchase of Snail Shell Cave and 88 acres of surrounding karst land and cedar glade near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The $132,000 purchase was closed earlier this week, marking the successful conclusion of an effort that began in 1999.

Snail Shell Cave is one of the most biologically significant cave sites in the Southeastern United States. In 1999, the cave was named one of the Top Ten Most Endangered Karst Communities by the Karst Waters Institute following its nomination by The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee. Primary threats to the cave include trespassing and vandalism, logging, and factors related to the encroaching sprawl and development from the nearby city of Murfreesboro.

Snail Shell is the longest continuous cave in the Tennessee Central Basin region, with more than 9 miles of surveyed passages. It is part of a system of caves comprising more than 13 miles of known passages. The main entrance, which is located on the SCCi property, is a huge sink about 100 feet wide and 200 feet long. The sink is a microhabitat containing and extraordinary number of rare and endangered plant and animal species.

Snail Shell Cave is an important natural resource. It is the intention of the SCCi that it be available to responsible and qualified individuals for exploration, recreation, education, and scientific study, and that SCCi and NSS members, area residents, and members of the caving and scientific communities interact and work together within the larger community of speleology to preserve, enjoy, study, and protect the cave and its ecosystem.

The SCCi Snail Shell Cave Preserve is being managed according to a comprehensive management plan developed last Fall by the Snail Shell Working Group and approved by the SCCi Board at its January meeting in Chattanooga. The Working Group, which had more than 30 participants, was comprised of cavers, conservationists, scientists, and land managers experienced in cave and karst management issues. Key support and assistance were provided by The Nature Conservancy and the State of Tennessee.

Much of the development of the management plan occurred during a three-month period of discussion and interaction facilitated by an email list and a special Snail Shell web page on the SCCi internet server. The group then held an open meeting in Murfreesboro to review and consolidate several draft proposals into a final draft plan which was submitted to the SCCi Board for approval.

At its January 26, 2002 meeting, the SCCi Board approved the proposed plan and established the Snail Shell Preserve Management Committee to implement the plan and manage the preserve. Bob Biddix was appointed Chairman of the management committee.

Management of the cave and the surface area of the preserve is governed by the management plan. For information or access arrangements, contact the management committee at snailshell@scci.org.

Due to a history of abuse of the cave and preserve, and to preserve good relations with our neighbors, the management plan requires advance notification before visiting the cave, and requires that at least one member of any group entering the cave be an SCCi or NSS member. Access is via a gated drive and the only designated parking area is inside the gate. The combination will be provided to visitors when they contact the management committee as required by the plan.

The SCCi is proud of it’s newest acquisition, and is counting on the help and support of the caving community in meeting the stewardship responsibilities that come with ownership of this important cave system. We would like to express our deepest appreciation to all the people who have helped with this acquisition. They are too numerous to name here, but we could not have succeeded without their faith and support.

Both the Snail Shell purchase and the recent Valhalla purchase have been in the works for more than two years. Acquisitions like these are often complex, involving many months of research, negotiation, legal work, fundraising, and financial analysis. Most of this work must be done discreetly and quietly behind the scenes, and can not be reported at grotto meetings, on TAG-Net, or in newsletters until a project is completed.

The SCCi aggressively pursues the acquisition of significant caves throughout the southeast, and has a well-defined mission and plan for cave protection and management. Cave acquisition is our business. Your support, both financial and through volunteer efforts, makes it possible for cavers to acquire, manage, protect, and enjoy southeastern caves.

The SCCi acquisitions committee is currently involved in more than a dozen other pending or potential cave acquisition projects. Our main limitation in pursuing these projects is financial – we have to be sure we can pay for them. We have at present a debt load of more than $230,000, which we service through monthly mortgage payments. Unless we can raise more money, we can not buy more caves until we reduce or pay off that debt. The cold hard truth is that the Conservancy’s greatest need is financial, and that you can best help the Conservancy acquire caves by contributing according to your means and ability.

About 60% to 70% of the money that we use to make our mortgage payments comes from monthly donations by SCCi Sustaining Members. The rest is raised through the SCCi booth at caving events, or by special grants from individuals or organizations.

Please consider joining us as a Sustaining Member, and helping us pay for the caves we all love and enjoy, so that they will be protected forever. For as little as $10 a month you can be a cave owner. For information on SCCi Sustaining Membership, see our web page or contact Sustaining Membership manager Bill Stringfellow at sustaining@scci.org. Regular memberships are also available for $25 per year.

Once again, we thank you for your support. We look forward to making more exciting announcements very soon.

Bill Putnam Chairman, SCCi Snail Shell Task Force Member of the Board, Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc.

Southeastern Cave Conservancy Signs Sinking Cove Lease

Fellow Cavers,
The Southeastern Cave Conservancy has signed a caving lease for the Sinking Cove area, re-opening the area to cavers. The lease was signed and delivered on May 17, 2001 and takes effect immediately. The lease is the result of much hard work over many months, and is a substantial commitment of the Conservancy’s financial and other resources. Last February, the entire 16,000-acre Sinking Cove area was closed when the owners leased it to a new management group. The area is now open to permit holders only, with permits being sold for deer and turkey hunting, trail riding, and a few other activities. The number of permits is strictly limited, since the primary use of the area is wildlife management for hunting.

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy (SCCi) negotiated a lease and management agreement to secure caver access to the caves and the campground. The agreement is a sub-lease of caving and camping rights, with associated responsibilities. It is costing SCCi several thousand dollars per year, but gives SCCi access rights and management authority for Sinking Cove Cave, Custard Hollow Cave, and all other caves on the property.

In effect, SCCi has purchased a group permit for the caving community. Cavers are the only user group with this kind of blanket access agreement. All other users will be paying individual permit fees ranging from $300 to $500 per year. This arrangement provides cavers with continued access to the caves and campground area outside of hunting season.

The lease  is a one-year agreement, which may be extended to a longer term if we respect the rules and requirements of the leaseholders and owners. These are embodied in the cave management plan included below and administered by SCCi in cooperation with Deep South Outdoors. If everything works out well our agreement will be extended to a longer term. If there are problems, we may lose access permanently.

Our access is contingent on cavers respecting the rules, becoming part of the team, and helping the owners and leaseholders maintain and protect the property. If we fail to live up to our part of the agreement, the lease may be terminated or not renewed. SCCi is investing a substantial amount of money in this lease, and is depending on the good will and support of all cavers to ensure the success of this arrangement.

If you have any questions about the preserve, the caves, or the management plan you can contact Buddy Lane (blane@scci.org) or Bill Putnam (putnam@scci.org) , who are the members of the SCCi Sinking Cove property management  committee. Additional information is available on the SCCi web site’s Sinking Cove Preserve page.

You are welcome to reproduce and publish this announcement and the accompanying management plan in grotto newsletters and similar publications.

Contributions and donations to help cover the cost of the lease will be very much appreciated.

Bill Putnam Sinking Cove Property Management Committee Southeastern Cave Conservancy putnam@scci.org

Southeastern Cave Conservancy Working to Lease Access Rights, Acquire Management of Caves

16 March 2001

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy has been asked by the owners and leaseholders of the Sinking Cove area to post the following announcement:

Effective February 24, 2001,the entire 16,000-acre Sinking Cove area has been closed to all users who do not have a current permit, including hunters, trail riders, ATV riders, cavers, hikers, etc.  The closed area includes all of Sinking Cove, Cave Cove, Farmer Cove, and Custard Hollow. The landowners have leased the property, which is more formally known as Carter Mountain Compartment 4, to a new management group, Deep South Outdoors (DSO).  The area will henceforth be open to permit holders only.

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy (SCCi) has been working with the owners and the new lease holders for some time as this situation developed in an effort to secure caver access to the caves and the campground. We have reached an agreement on the terms of a sub-lease of caving rights. It will cost SCCi several thousand dollars per year, but will give the Conservancy access and management authority for Sinking Cove Cave, Custard Hollow Cave, and other caves on the property. Until the agreement is signed and hunting season ends the area will remain closed to all caving and camping.

The SCCi is, in effect, purchasing a group permit for the caving community. Cavers will be the only user group with this kind of blanket access agreement. All other users will be paying individual permit fees ranging from $300 to $500 per year. This arrangement will provide cavers with continued access to the caves and campground area.

The agreement is a one-year probationary agreement, which will be extended to a longer term if we respect the rules and requirements of the leaseholders and owners. These are still under development, and will be embodied in a cave management plan administered by SCCi in cooperation with Deep South Outdoors. In order to track usage of the property, DSO has required certain procedures as part of the management plan, including the requirement that at least one member of any caver group on the property be a card-carrying SCCi member.

Access will be limited to non-hunting seasons, with  a 2-week “quiet time” buffer before the season begins. Advance notice will be required, either through SCCi or a toll-free notification line. Vehicle access will be limited to the campground and possibly to the Custard Hollow Cave parking spot. Special arrangements will be required for grotto camp-outs and similar events, and will be handled through SCCi.

The area will remain closed to caving, hiking, and camping until after the close of Turkey season in May. By that time, the cave management plan and procedures will be completed and published, and all caver access will be managed through the Conservancy.

Deep South Outdoors is giving us a very flexible and reasonable arrangement, with very favorable terms. In return, they expect cavers to be their partners in taking care of the property. We will be expected to help out by keeping the property clean, respecting the wildlife and the land, and reporting unauthorized users and vandals. All permitted user groups will be expected to do this and to help with property maintenance on an annual work day or weekend.

Our agreement is contingent on cavers respecting the rules, becoming part of the team, and helping the owners and leaseholders maintain and protect the property. If we fail to live up to their expectations the lease will be terminated or not renewed. SCCi is investing a substantial amount of money in this lease, and will be depending on the good will and support of all cavers to ensure the success of this arrangement. Please be very aware that this is a probationary agreement. DSO is allowing non-hunting usage of the property for the first year. If everything works out well our agreement will be extended to a longer term. If there are problems, we may lose access permanently.

Following this announcement you will find letters from the Carter Family and from Mitch Green of Deep South Outdoors which will help you understand the reasons for this new arrangement as well as DSO’s plans and intentions for the property. Please read it carefully.

Anyone with questions can contact Buddy Lane (blane@scci.org) or John Van Swearingen (jvswearingen@scci.org) , who will be the primary contacts for the SCCi Sinking Cove property management committee.

You are welcome to reproduce and publish this announcement and the accompanying letters in grotto newsletters and similar publications.

Bill Putnam Director, Southeastern Cave Conservancy On behalf of Deep South Outdoors, the Carter Family, and the Southeastern Cave Conservancy putnam@scci.org

To whom it may concern,

We, the owners of Compartment 4, have decided to lease our land to one individual, Mitch Green. He is in a position to run a more efficient hunt, and manage the land better than in the past. We appreciate your interest in leasing a portion of the land, but finally, we decided that having one person oversee the land would be the best course.

Mr. Green also intends to organize recreational use of the land during off-hunt times to help with the growing expenses of taxes, road repair, litter pickup, and feedplot costs, etc. He is dedicated to making this area a much better hunting area by adding feedplots and restricting access to the area through the use of gates, video cameras, and personnel among other things.

If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Green for hunt information or concerning recreational use. Ray Evans will no longer be working in this capacity, so please direct all calls about Compartment 4 to Mr. Green.

Thank you very much,

The Carter Family


New friends and neighbors,

It has taken some time, but I’m finally able to get some information out to all of you about our plans for the 16,000+ acres of Compartment 4. I have had the pleasure of speaking with many of you on the phone and in person over the past few weeks. I really appreciate the warm welcome and enthusiasm for our plans.

We publish hunting, fishing and football magazines. The plan is quite simple. We plan to manage Compartment 4 for deer and turkey so that we can do television shows to support our magazines. At the same time we will try to allow as many folks in the community to have access to the property as our management plan will allow. The property will be managed under the name Deep South Outdoors (DSO). Our television show by the same name will appear soon on the Outdoor Channel.

The notices that were posted around the property were changed to no-trespassing signs the weekend of February 24th, 2001. My staff will have a list of folks who have been given permission to travel the main gravel road but do not have a permit. Even if you think you are already on this list, please contact me again and verify this the case. I’m asking that everyone have a permit or permission before entering Compartment 4 as of February 24th, 2001.

I have leased the caves to the Southeastern Cave Conservancy. Please do not enter any cave in Compartment 4 without a permit from both the conservancy and DSO. I have also made a deal for the rights to ride the existing dirt bike trails, with the provision that 10 miles of the trails be moved to better accommodate our hunting management plans.

I am always interested and available for talking over any special circumstances or ideas you may have.

I look forward to meeting and working with everyone,

Mitch Green Deep South Outdoors