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 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.