Research, Media and Special Use Permits

SCCi preserves are of great interest to explorers, scientists, historians, artists and others. We encourage the study and exploration of our preserves. Simultaneously, SCCi is committed to a conservation mission that ensures that our caves and preserves remain in their natural state for future generations.

To balance these two goals, SCCi has a process for individuals and organizations interested in pursuing activities on SCCi preserves that are beyond the traditional recreational uses of our preserves, which include caving, hiking, ridge walking, bird watching, and similar pursuits. We have attempted to make the process as transparent and straightforward as possible.

All permitting is done through The information below is provided to guide you through the permitting process.

Research Permits

SCCi requires Research Permits for all research activities on our preserves, in order to ensure that our stewardship continues to be informed by the latest scientific knowledge. We define the term “research” to include any scientific activity intended to obtain information about our resources, including but not limited to: data collection, inventories, monitoring, and sampling or collection of any type of biota, geologic matter, water, or air. With respect to collecting geologic matter, we prohibit handling, breakage, removal, and collection of speleothems of any type, including broken and unbroken specimens (see discussion below).  Fossils and mineral deposits exposed in the walls and floors of the cave must not be disturbed, sampled, or removed. Under some circumstances, carefully monitored sampling of small quantities of terrigenous sediment (clay-sand-breakdown), and bat guano may be approved if conducted in a non-destructive manner.  The disturbance and removal of vertebrate remains, such as bones and bone fragments, is prohibited. Ancient footprints and archaeological remains of any type may not be disturbed. 

Special note regarding speleothem age-dating and climate research
Over the past 20 years, there has been an explosion of interest in analyzing speleothems through U-Th age-dating and C-O isotope analyses because they are a geochemical record of climate and environmental changes at the surface through time.  Unfortunately, these studies currently involve the destructive removal of rare, long (20-40 inches), perfectly cylindrical, small diameter, whole stalagmites, including actively growing and inactive specimens, for study in laboratories. SCCi has already been approached by a team of researchers to collect stalagmites for study at one of our preserves but, of course, we strongly objected and blocked the study. Our view is that stalagmites are irreplaceable parts of the public domain and should be preserved for posterity, irrespective of the scientific results.  We will prohibit all sampling and collection of speleothems at our preserves until less destructive methods are developed.

Research Permits permit the research activity for up to one year. Visitor Permits are required when the research team will be on site and must adhere to preserve visitor limits. If the research team is larger than current preserve management guidelines, you must seek advance approval.

If you are unsure as to whether your proposed activity requires a research permit, please contact us with details of what you would like to do.

Special Use Permits

SCCi requires Special Use Permits (SUP) for all non-research activities that (1) fall outside typical recreational use of a preserve, (2) have the potential to impact preserves/caves, their natural or cultural resources, or (3) interfere with the visitor experience.

Examples when a Special Use Permit is needed include, but are not limited to:

  • Any activity prohibited or listed as requiring a special use permit in an SCCi preserve management plan, visitor use plan, or policy. (e.g., group sizes that exceed limits; camping; disturbing, collecting, or removing artifacts, biota or geologic media (just to be clear, the mud that sticks to your shoes, clothes or gear is OK!), digging in the cave or on the preserve, modifying the cave passage, bolting of any nature, removal or replacement of existing bolts or rigging, use of rigging points other than those allowed, etc.)
  • Cave exploration and survey. If you found a previously unknown or unexplored cave on an SCCi preserve; discovered previously unknown passage within a known cave; want to do a lead climb to explore a high lead, dome, or canyon; or want to re-survey a previously mapped cave, you need a SUP. All new cave exploration will follow a “survey-as-you-explore” ethic, and that all cave survey activities will meet our current survey standards.
  • Cleanup activities beyond the removal of typical incidental modern litter that may accumulate in caves and on preserves. A SUP is required for organized group cleanups; large-scale waste removal; or ANY graffiti removal, formation cleaning.

Special Use Permits permit the research activity for up to one year. Visitor Permits are required when the special use team will be on site. If you are unsure as to whether your proposed activity requires a special use permit, please contact us with details of what you would like to do.

Media Permits

Any creation of media (photo, video, audio, painting, drawing, etc.) on SCCi Preserves for any purpose other than personal use requires a Media Permit. Professional artists are encouraged to use SCCi Preserves for portfolio work, free public exhibitions, etc. However, commercial use of SCCi Preserves is strictly prohibited and that includes the sell or monetization of creative works created on SCCi Preserves. This includes the display of works on websites that create pay-per-click/view revenue streams. In exchange for the issuance of a Media Permit, the artist gives SCCi the right to share the finished work, with attribution, for the purposes of education, promotion and/or fundraising.

Media Permits permit the media activity for up to one year. Visitor Permits are required when the artist will be on site. If you are unsure as to whether your proposed activity requires a media permit, please contact us with details of what you would like to do.

Permit Process

All permit requests are to be made online at After registering, select New Permit and the type of permit for which you want to apply.

Once we receive your permit request, it will be evaluated by a team of reviewers. They may ask for additional information or clarifications, notify you of required stipulations, and inform you of any restrictions that may be applicable. If they approve your permit, your permit will include any additional stipulations. It is our intent to have a final answer given within 30 days of a final permit request.

If you need more information on the permit process or your specific request, you may send an email to or call 423-771-9671.