Research 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, birdwatching, and similar pursuits. We have attempted to make the process as transparent and straightforward as possible.

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” broadly 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 media (e.g. rocks, minerals, formations, soil, sediment or deposit), water, or air.

If you are interested in pursuing scientific research on an SCCi preserve, please complete a Research Permit request at Register and then select Research Permit from the New Permit menu. Research Permits permit the research activity for up to one year. Visitor Permits are required when the research team will be onsite. 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 for all non-research activities that fall outside typical recreational uses of our preserves, and/or which have the potential to impact our preserves or our caves, their natural or cultural resources, or visitor experiences at our preserves.

If you are interested in conducting this type of activity on an SCCi preserve, please download and complete the SCCi Special Use Permit Application. If you’re not sure whether your proposed activity requires a Special Use Permit, please contact us with the details of what you would like to do.

Examples of instances 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. Examples can include, but are not limited to: group sizes that exceed stated 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, and any activity that is potentially covered by our commercial use policy, which includes any preserve and/or cave visitation for which a fee of any type is charged to participants.
  • Cave exploration and survey. If you found a previously unknown or unexplored cave on an SCCi preserve, or if you discovered previously unknown passage within a known cave, or if you want to do a lead climb to explore a high lead, dome, or canyon, or if you want to re-survey a previously mapped cave, you need a Special Use Permit. SCCi expects that 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. SCCi encourages the removal of typical incidental modern litter that may accumulate in our caves and on our preserves. However, if what you want to do involves an organized group activity, large-scale waste removal, or ANY graffiti removal, formation cleaning or other alteration to cave passages, cave formations, or other geologic features on a preserve, you need a Special Use Permit.

After you fill out the application, email the document to Include any other attachments which support your application.

Permit Review Process

Once we receive your application, it will be evaluated by a team of reviewers. They may ask for additional information or clarifications of your application, notify you of required stipulations, and inform you of any restrictions that may be applicable. If they approve your application, they will draft a Memorandum of Agreement which states when and how you may use the preserve. This MOA is then forwarded for final approval as outlined in our policies. It is our intent to have a final answer given within 30 days of final information submittal for any permit request.  Upon board approval, the MOA must be signed by the person/organization requesting the permit.

If you need more information on the permit process or your specific request, you may send an email to or call 423-771-9671 Ext 101.