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

Southeastern Cave Conservancy Acquires Frick’s Cave

May 16, 1997

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy is pleased to be the owner of Fricks Cave, 10,000 endangered Gray Bats, Georgia’s only known population of the rare Tennessee Cave Salamander, and 33.8 acres of north Georgia karstland. Without a doubt Fricks is Georgia’s richest biologic spelean environment. It is one of two Gray Bat caves in Georgia. The cave is in Walker County on the eastern flank of Lookout Mountain.

Previous attempts to buy the cave were unsuccessful and the cave, along with the entire 426 acre Meadowview Farm, went up for auction on May 10, 1997. We went to the auction and were able to secure a contract on all the tracts that we wanted to get. The bidding was rather fierce, and we had to pay more than we had hoped, but we got what we need to protect the cave and its inhabitants.

The SCC was represented by a delegation consisting of Bill Putnam, Mark Wolinsky, Buddy Lane, E.T. Davis, Kenneth Huffines, Steve Hudson, Diane Cousineau, and Karen Padgett. All of these people, plus Jim Ozier (Georgia Department of Natural Resources), Andrew Schock (Georgia Nature Conservancy), Jim Godwin (Alabama Natural Heritage Program), Kurt Buhlman (University of Georgia), and several others helped make this acquisition possible.

The SCC took ownership at the closing on June 10, 1997. Financing for this acquisition was provided by the Georgia Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Additional support was provided by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Fricks Cave is closed to all visitation due to the presence of the endangered bats and salamanders. Entry into the cave may constitute harrassment as defined in Section 9 of the federal Endangered Species Act and is punishable by imprisonment and fines up to $50,000. Please respect the endangered wildlife in this delicate cave.

The SCCi hosts an annual Open House day at the preserve each winter to allow visitors to tour the cave when the bats are not present. For information about the Open House day or to inquire about access to the cave and preserve, contact the Fricks Cave Management Committee.

The “Buy a Fricks Cave Bat” program generates funds to pay off the mortgage, pay property taxes, and pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the preserve. The purchase price was over $100,000, so we’ve really got to sell a LOT of bats! Your tax deductible $10 donation gets you an honorary certificate of adoption (complete with your own bat’s name) and an SCCI bat decal.

Neversink is ours!

Neversink is Ours!

December 5, 1995

On Tuesday, December 5 1995, the Southeastern Cave Conservancy became the owner of the classic TAG pit, Neversink. The closing was held in Scottsboro, Alabama, with Mark Wolinsky, Bill Putnam, and Buddy Lane representing the SCCi. This event is the culmination of almost three years of work by many SCCi members. It was made possible by the generous support of cavers and organizations throughout the US. We would especially like to thank Pigeon Mountain Industries, the Dogwood City Grotto, the Huntsville Grotto, and the Richmond Area Speleological Society for their early and generous financial support. A large share of the credit for bringing this complicated deal to completion goes to SCCi Acquisitions Chairman Mark Wolinsky, who handled the negotiations and ran down countless details to make it all work.

The total cost of the acquisition was just over $51,000, including legal fees and survey expenses. The SCCi raised $31,000 and borrowed another $20,000 to make the purchase. As a result of a very successful fundraising campaign, the debt was paid in full by October, 1996.

Neversink. Photo by John Van Swearingen, IV.   The Southeastern Cave Conservancy is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to the acquisition and management of caves and cave access in the Southeastern US. Membership costs $25 per year and is open to anyone interested in the management and protection of caves. Member dues go directly to buy, lease, and manage caves.

History of the SCCi Neversink Acquisition Neversink is a beautiful 162 foot open air pit in Jackson County Alabama. Long known and loved by TAG cavers, the cave is considered by many to be the classic TAG pit. It is probably the most photographed pit in TAG due to the beautiful fern covered ledges (including some rare and endangered ferns), waterfalls, and other features. The pit is about 40 feet in diameter at the top and bells out to 100 feet in diameter at the bottom. It has been featured in countless slide shows and has been pictured in many publications including the NSS News, various convention guidebooks, and the cover of Bob Thrun’s book Prusiking.

The pit was closed in 1993 due to a change of ownership. The new owner was concerned about liability and about disturbance of the water pipe from the spring above the pit. The spring is the only reliable water supply for a home at the bottom of the mountain.

The SCCi was already in negotiations to buy the pit when it was sold in 1993 to another buyer who bypassed the real estate agent. We then made contact with the new owner and entered into negotiations to buy the pit from him. After much work, an agreement was reached. We began raising money to pay for the cave. At the eleventh hour the owner had second thoughts and decided to sell the land to the person using the spring. We then made contact with that person, and were eventually able to reach a agreement to buy the cave from him in return for a guarantee of a water rights easement for the spring.

In July 1995 the Southeastern Cave Conservancy signed a contract with the owner to purchase the pit. Following a survey of the property and some arrangements regarding parking and walking access, the SCCi completed the purchase and took ownership on December 5, 1995.

Total cost of the purchase was a little over $51,000. The SCCi raised most the money and secured a loan sufficient to allow us to complete the deal. We had six months to pay off the loan at no interest.

At the 1995 TAG Fall Cave In the SCCi kicked off a major new fund raising program for the Neversink Purchase called “Buy a Piece of the Pit”. Similar in organization to the NSS Office Buy a Brick campaign, the plan allows cavers to make a contribution to the SCCi Neversink Fund and receive a complimentary Neversink T-Shirt with a map of the cave and the words “I Bought A Piece of the Pit” plus an honorary certificate of ownership, suitable for framing, which identifies your particular plot on the property. The fund raising program was a major success and allowed us to retire the debt from the purchase in one year.

All contributions are tax deductible in accordance with IRS rules for charitable contributions. The SCCi is a 501-c-3 non-profit tax exempt organization.

Any questions regarding Neversink may be referred to SCCi Neversink Property Manager Jim Hall.

If you would like to support the SCCi by joining as a member, the dues are $25 and should be sent to SCCi Treasurer Buddy Lane, 40 Hidden Brook Lane, Signal Mountain TN 37377.