The Southeastern Cave Conservancy, through its Valhalla Society, is working to protect and manage caves in the southeast. Its major activity is the acquisition of cave preserves, usually by purchase or lease. Contributions from members and donors are always needed for new acquisitions. These come through wills, bequest and insurance or IRA beneficiaries.
In addition, the Conservancy has continuing expenses for property taxes, surveys, boundary marking, maintenance, and other stewardship and management activities. It is often difficult to raise and set aside funds for these ongoing expenses of stewardship. The Conservancy is working to establish financial security and guarantee the protection and preservation of its preserves in decades to come.
You can help ensure the long-term success of the Conservancy by making a provision in your will, life insurance, or estate plan to leave a gift to the Conservancy. This is called Planned Giving. Through your planned gift to the SCCi, you can choose which of the Conservancy's programs you wish to support. Gifts to the General Fund support all of the Conservancy's activities. Gifts to the Cave Acquisition Fund will be used to buy or lease caves. Or, you can designate your gift toward one of our restricted funds, such as the Stewardship Fund or the Endowment Fund.
Visiting SCCi Caves:
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 http://permits.scci.org. The information below is provided to guide you through the permitting process.
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. SCCi does not allow the collection or harvesting of speleothems.
Research Permits permit the research activity for up to one year. Visitor Permits are required when the research team will be on site. 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:
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.
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.
All permit requests are to be made online at http://permits.scci.org. 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.
In the late 1980s, large parts of beautiful southeastern karst landscapes started to be closed to recreational access and threatened by development. A small group of caving enthusiasts started talking about how to protect a beautiful and pristine part of the landscape that many people don't think much about: caves.
SCCi was the brainchild of Jeff and Alexis Harris, two long-time cave conservation activists from Georgia. In 1991, they called together a group of about 20 caving enthusiasts to discuss the idea of starting a cave conservancy. Back then, the idea that cave explorers could come together to buy and manage large numbers of caves seemed reasonable, but they also knew that a conservancy would require huge sums of money and a vast amount of volunteer labor.
After that first meeting, everyone agreed to move forward. After more planning meetings, the newly formed Southeastern Cave Conservancy received official 501(c)3 status in November of 1991. At first, the small group thought that the way the new conservancy would actually own caves would be through donations, conservation easements, or maybe leases. The small group of leaders thought they might be able to afford to actually buy a cave every once in a while, just as long as the property didn't cost too much.
The group has been much more successful than the founders could have imagined. Over 29 years later, SCCi protects 170+ caves on 31 preserves in six states. How did SCCi founders do it?
SCCi was lucky in its early years. The founders benefited from good advice and guidance from many people and organizations. They modeled the new group after the Nature Conservancy and sought that group's advice for how to be successful. They also got lucky right away when a local caver donated a very popular cave in Trenton, GA, Howards Waterfall Cave, to the start-up conservancy. This generous donation set the stage for many other projects in the years to come.
After getting started, the new board started to talk about a good first project. Many in the group were very fond of Fox Mountain in Rising Fawn, GA, and the wonderful caves hidden under the mountain's craggy surface. The only problem was the property potentially for sale was over 300 acres-- hefty acreage with a hefty price tag.
As the group pondered whether or not to try to buy Fox Mountain, the board got word that one of the most beautiful and popular caves in the southeast, Neversink, was for sale. The board knew they had a better chance of paying for the 86 acres at Neversink. The purchase took three years to finalize.
The purchase of Neversink put SCCi on the map. People who were previously skeptical of a cave conservancy became enthusiastic about the group's mission and goals. People jumped on board to help the group pay off the $50,000 mortgage. Over $30,000 was raised before the closing. The remaining $20,000 was financed by a loan from an anonymous supporter. The loan amount was raised and repaid in less than six months. In all, more than 400 people donated money to the project and became honorary owners of a "piece of the pit."
Over the years, SCCi has acquired well-known and loved caves such as Kennamer Cave, Limrock Blowing, Valhalla, and Fern Caves Surprise Pit. SCCi did eventually buy a large piece of land on Fox Mountain and some wildly popularly caves. For other caves that weren't available for purchase, like Sinking Cove Cave, SCCi has worked out long-term lease and cooperative management agreements.
After more than 29 years, SCCi protects some of the most important bat habitats, caves with spectacular biodiversity, and important watersheds. All of this will provide opportunities for cave exploration, hiking and scientific study.