Hollow Ridge Cave in Florida Donated to the SCCi

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. is pleased to announce that Hollow Ridge Cave, Jackson County, Florida, was donated to the SCCi on January 27, 2006. The Hollow Ridge Cave Preserve includes the cave entrances and approximately 5 acres of land overlying the cave. This donation is the culmination of more than three years of work by cave owner Allen Mosler and SCCi Director Mark Wolinsky. This acquisition is the SCCi’s 23rd preserve and its 53rd cave!

Hollow Ridge Cave is a few miles northeast of Marianna, Florida, in a small hill that rises about 40 feet above the Chipola River flood plain. The cave has four entrances and a surveyed length of 3,370 feet, making it one of the larger caves in the area. It is formed at the contact between the Marianna Limestone and the Bumpnose member of the underlying Crystal River Limestone. The cave’s passages are a mixture of narrow fissures and muddy bedding plane crawls connecting several rooms. Many formations are found throughout the cave. The lower levers are subjected to frequent flooding.

When the property containing Hollow Ridge Cave was subdivided some years ago, SCCi member Allen Mosler decided to buy the cave. He did so by purchasing three lots overlying its passages. Since that time, Mosler has acted as steward and protector of the cave – a role which he will continue as manager of the SCCi Hollow Ridge Cave Preserve.

The surface areas of the preserve are wooded, with abundant growth of pine, cedar, hickory, and other trees typical to the region. A small, grassy clearing at the top of the hill serves as a parking area for visitors. Near the back of the preserve there is a small quarry, long abandoned and now overgrown with cedars, ferns, and oak-leaf hydrangeas. The Chipola river lies about 1,500 feet to the west and is fed by many springs in the area. The parking area is reached by a short dirt road and driveway.

The cave management plan is similar to that used at most other SCCi preserves, and is posted on the SCCi web site. The property manager is Allen Mosler of Havana, Florida. When visiting the preserve, please park in the designated parking area on the SCCi property.

Visitors are warned that during or following heavy rains the cave may flood. The SCCi recommends that cavers not enter the cave when rain is expected. Flooding can occur very quickly and with little or no warning!

The donation of the property was complicated by overlapping boundary lines and related title issues. Resolution of these issues took more than three years of work by Mosler and Wolinsky before a proper boundary survey and deed description could be obtained. Their persistence and dedication made possible the permanent protection of this fine cave.

William O. Putnam, Director and Acquisitions Chairman Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. putnam@scci.org www.scci.org

Southeastern Cave Conservancy Buys South Pittsburg Pit; Purchase is our 22nd acquisition

September 20, 2005 — South Pittsburg, Tennessee

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy is pleased to announce that it has completed the purchase of South Pittsburg Pit, located in the city of South Pittsburg in Marion County, Tennessee. The cave has a beautiful 160-foot entrance pit and more than 2,200 feet of surveyed passage, and has been a popular destination for cavers since its initial exploration by Chattanooga Grotto members in February 1964.

In 1997, the Conservancy leased the rights to the cave and one acre of surrounding land. For seven years, the SCCi managed access and kept the cave open for visitation. In 2004, the lease expired, and the owner chose not to renew it. Instead, the 1,900-acre property containing the cave was listed for sale. Since that time, the SCCi has been working to purchase the cave and a reasonable buffer of land around it.

Early in 2005, the property containing the cave was sold to a developer. SCCi representatives contacted the new owner and made a proposal to purchase the cave and some of the land around it. Many months of negotiation followed.  On August 15, 2005, a sales contract was signed between the new owner and the SCCi. Closing of the sale occurred on September 20.

The South Pittsburg Pit Preserve includes the pit entrance and ten acres overlying the cave passages, as well as easements for access to and from the preserve. The seller has also donated an additional ten acres to serve as a buffer against future development in the area. Access to the twenty-acre preserve is available via the established trail which begins behind the water tank above Lloyd Park in South Pittsburg.

The purchase is being financed by a 10-year, $40,000 mortgage. Donations to support the purchase and help pay off the mortgage are welcome. Contributions may be made by check or credit card, and may be mailed to SCCi, PO Box PO Box 71857, Chattanooga TN 37407-0857. Contributions are tax-deductible in accordance with IRS rules for section 501(c)(3) charitable organizations.

The South Pittsburg Pit Preserve is the SCCi’s 22nd cave preserve. The SCCi owns or leases 51 other caves, and this purchase increases its holdings to 1,169 acres of cave and karst lands in six states.

Questions regarding this announcement may be directed to SCCi Acquisitions Chairman Bill Putnam, bputnam@scci.org or SCCi Chairman John Hickman, jhickman@scci.org.

Southeastern Cave Conservancy Buys Limrock Blowing Cave

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. is excited to announce that has completed its purchase of Limrock Blowing Cave (AJK311), Jackson County, Alabama. The Limrock Preserve includes the cave entrance and approx. 48 acres. This purchase is the culmination of more than three years of efforts by SCCi Directors Bill Putnam and Mark Wolinsky to acquire the cave. Limrock Blowing Cave is Alabama’s 15th longest cave, with a surveyed length of 15,505 feet of primarily horizontal passage. This acquisition is the SCCi’s 23rd preserve and its 52nd cave!

The cave management plan is similar to that used at most other SCCi preserves, and is posted on the SCCi web site. The property manager is Tommy Royston of Huntsville, Alabama.

When visiting the preserve, please park in the designated parking rea on the SCCi property. Do not park at the barn or field uphill from the cave.

Visitors are warned that in heavy rains the cave floods completely. The SCCi requests that cavers not enter the cave when rain is in the forecast. Flooding can occur very quickly and with little or no warning!

The purchase price, survey and closing costs for the property totaled $54,356.39. As a result, we have another mortgage in the amount of $40,000, so the cave is not yet ours! Carol Hawkins is spearheading our fund raising effort for the property. More information on this will be available in the next few weeks. Remember: the sooner we pay off this and our other loans, the sooner we can acquire more caves.

In addition to making a contribution to support the Limrock purchase, please consider joining the SCCi as a Sustaining Member, and helping to pay for the caves we all love and enjoy.  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.

On behalf of the directors, we thank all of you for your continued confidence and support of our so very important mission.

Mark N. Wolinsky, Director William O. Putnam, Director and Acquisitions Chairman Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. mwolinsky@scci.org bputnam@scci.org www.scci.org

SCCi Leases Rattling Cave

We are pleased to announce that the Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc., in cooperation with the Appalachian Grotto has secured access to Rattling Cave with a ten year lease.

Rattling Cave was one of the earliest caves explored in the east Tennessee region by organized cavers. In 1949, William M. Morrison and eight others rigged ropes, ladders and pulleys for the 130-foot descent into the cave.  The cave has a number of attractive formation areas and contains an abundance of cave dwelling fauna including a sizable population of federally-listed endangered Gray Bats.  Some 18,000 individuals have been observed hibernating in the winter months. The cave was surveyed to a length of more than 2,000 feet by the Smoky Mountain Grotto in the late 1960’s, and extended by more than 500 feet by members of the Appalachian Grotto in the late 1990’s.

We are especially excited about this acquisition because it is one of the deepest and most scenic pits in East Tennessee. Rattling Cave is located at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, where very few caves exist in the predominately metamorphic strata.  The impressive 130-foot entrance pit leads to several levels of cave passages and nice formation areas.

The current management plan, access procedures, and policies may be found on the SCCi web site.  Access procedures for the cave still require checking in with the water utility, owners of the cave.  Please follow the access procedures carefully.  Rattling Cave will continue to be managed to allow access in the summer months but will remain closed to visitation from September 15th to April 30th to protect the hibernating bats.

The SCCi is counting on the help and support of the caving community in meeting the financial responsibilities that come with the stewardship and management of our cave preserves. The year 2002 has already been our most active year with recently purchased Snail Shell Cave in Rutherford County Tennessee, Valhalla in Jackson County Alabama, and Wolf River Cave in Fentress County Tennessee.  Acquiring these three fantastic cave preserves in the same year has severely depleted our operating cash, and has increased our debt load to the highest level since we began acquiring caves. It also significantly reduces our ability to act quickly in situations like the Wolf River Cave auction. We need your help to get back to full strength, so that we are able to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.

Please consider joining the SCCi as a Sustaining Member, and helping to pay for the caves we all love and enjoy.  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.

On behalf of the directors, I thank all of you for your continued confidence and support of our so very important mission.

Mark N. Wolinsky, Acquisitions Chairman

Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc

Southeastern Cave Conservancy Buys Wolf River Cave, Establishes 22-Acre Preserve

We are pleased to announce that the Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc., in partnership with The Nature Conservancy , Tennessee Chapter (TNC) and Bat Conservation International (BCI), has purchased Wolf River Cave and 33 acres of surrounding karst land near Jamestown in Fentress County Tennessee. The cave and surrounding property were part of a family farm that was sold at auction on July 20, 2002. Our cave conservation partnership was able to outbid other potential buyers with a winning bid for the cave tract of $74,000. The purchase was completed on Friday, August 16, in Cookeville ,Tennessee, when SCCi Chair Diane Cousineau and Treasurer Buddy Lane delivered the check and signed the papers. The SCCi now holds title to the property and will manage it under a joint agreement with TNC.

Wolf River Cave is more than eight miles long and is one of the most significant caves in North America in terms of its biology, anthropology, archeology and zoology. According to Jan F. Simek, professor of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Wolf River Cave contains the oldest known human footprints found in the dark zone of a cave. Also preserved in the cave are extinct Jaguar tracks and skeletons.

The cave also contains Tennessee’s second-largest hibernation colony of the rarest endangered bat species in the Southeast – the Indiana bat. According to a survey conducted by Tennessee Technological University, the winter colony numbers between 2,400 and 2,500 bats. One of the first species to be placed on the federal endangered species list, Indiana bats hibernate in caves from September through early April. The cave is also known to house a small number of federally listed endangered Gray Bats in the summer, as well as a few Rafinesque’s Big-Eared Bats. In addition, cavers have reported observing blind crayfish and cave beetles.

The Nature Conservancy , Tennessee Chapter and SCCi operate under a Memorandum of Understanding for joint projects involving caves and cave protection in Tennessee.  Along with its other goals and objectives, the ability to act quickly and in concert to purchase caves in immediate danger is one reason the MOU was implemented.  In a land auction participants often have little time to prepare and prices can soar above appraised values.  This important acquisition would not have taken place without the financial assistance of TNC and Bat Conservation International.  Gabby Call, Director of Protection for TNC’s Tennessee Chapter, and Jim Kennedy, Assistant Director of BCI’s North American Bat Conservation Partnership, were instrumental in securing the necessary financial support and in forging a successful partnership among the three organizations.

Over the past 5 years, TNC has invested significant conservation efforts toward the protection of Wolf River Cave, a Nature Conservancy eco-region priority site. Discussions with the landowners to protect the bats began in 1998 and continued for several years. The primary concern for the cave has always been protection of the endangered Indiana bats that hibernate there in the winter. In March 1999, Heather Garland – Cave Program Coordinator, and Gabby Call – Director of Land Acquisition, both with the The Nature Conservancy , Tennessee Chapter, forged a Cooperative Management Agreement between the Pile family heirs, TNC, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), and the Upper Cumberland Grotto (UCG). Later that summer cavers discovered a grisly massacre. Someone callously knocked approximately 40 bats, including many Indiana bats, off of the wall and killed them. As an emergency reaction to this incident, funding was secured from several partners including US Fish and Wildlife Service, BCI, and the Wallace Research Foundation, and the cave entrance was gated.

While TNC made significant progress in protecting the bats, there was still no permanent protection for the cave. Ownership of the property was distributed among eight family members, complicating the discussions. When agreement on the disposition of the farm could not be reached, the family decided to sell it at auction. TNC prepared to try to purchase the cave at auction, and received offers of assistance from BCI and the SCCi. TNC and SCCi researched land values and agreed on a joint bidding strategy for the auction.

The farm being auctioned was 474 acres divided into 28 separate parcels for bidding. Bidding for the 33-acre cave tract opened at $50,000 and climbed higher as several bidders competed. The SCCi won the bidding at $74,000, backed by a TNC contribution of $30,836 and a $10,000 commitment from Bat Conservation International. Even though we won the bidding at $74,000 we could have still lost because at the end of the auction the entire farm is offered as a whole to the highest bidder. The situation was truly nail-biting. Fortunately, no one came forward to buy the farm as a whole.

Wolf River Cave will continue to be managed by the Wolf River Management Committee of the Upper Cumberland Grotto (UCG) of the National Speleological Society in conjunction with the SCCi and the TNC.  The management policy and procedures currently in place are not expected to undergo any major changes. Currently, the Wolf River Management Committee (WRMC) members are: Kristen Bobo, Chair, with Anthony Olberding, James Greene, and Nora Dickinsas Cave Managers. Permission is required to enter the cave, which is open from May through August.

The current management plan, access procedures, policies, and contacts for the Wolf River Cave Preserve may be found on the SCCi web site preserves page. Access to the cave for 2002 ended on September 16, 2002, with the beginning of the bat hibernation season.  Wolf River Cave will continue to be managed to allow access in the spring and summer but will remain closed to visitation during the winter months to protect the hibernating bats.

The SCCi Directors are very exited about this cooperative effort to protect one of Tennessee’s most significant caves. We are counting on the help and support of the caving community in meeting the financial and stewardship responsibilities that come with ownership of this important cave. As you know, SCCi recently purchased Snail Shell Cave in Tennessee and Valhalla Cave in Alabama. Acquiring these three fantastic preserves in the same year has severely depleted our operating cash, increased our debt load to the highest level since we began purchasing caves, and significantly reduced our ability to act quickly in situations like the Wolf River Cave auction. We need your help to get back to full strength, so that we are able to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.

In another sense, however, this is not entirely a bad thing, because it provides a yardstick for measuring our success in carrying out our mission! 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.

Our main limitation in pursuing these projects is financial – we have to be sure we can pay for them. Before the Wolf River Cave auction, we had a debt load of more than $250,000, which we service through monthly mortgage payments. After the contributions from TNC and BCI for the purchase of Wolf River Cave, we have still increased this amount by more than $33,000 to a total of over $283,000. This figure covers only the mortgage amounts and does not include expenses such as surveys, title work, property maintenance, insurance, or other monthly operating expenses.

Right now we have more than a dozen more great caves either in negotiation or under consideration for acquisition. Unless we can raise more money, we can not buy more caves until we reduce or pay down our debt. Our greatest need is therefore financial, and 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 SCCi as a Sustaining Member, and helping to pay for the caves we all love and enjoy. For as little as $10 a month you can be a cave owner. Regular memberships are also available for $25 per year.

The following links provide information about our partners in the purchase of Wolf River Cave:

The Nature Conservancy, Tennessee Chapter nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/tennessee/

Bat Conservation International, Inc. www.batcon.org/