Land Trust to Preserve State’s Trove of Caves

Robert Handford rigs rope over a 151-foot-deep cave pit in Huntsville’s Green Mountain Preserve. Photo by Tom Whitehurst, NSS

It took three weeks to rescue 12 Thai schoolboys from a flooded cave in Chiang Rai province last June. As the world watched and waited, we learned that caves are a beautiful if misunderstood environment.

Caves dot Alabama’s landscape and are a fragile environment. For that reason a new partnership has formed between the National Speleological Society and Land Trust of North Alabama. The two groups hope to ensure protection of numerous caves and the fragile life that inhabits them on nature preserves owned and managed by the Land Trust.

The partnership will speed management plans for caves located on more than 7,000 acres of North Alabama land preserved by the Land Trust and opens up more partnership opportunities for further conservation projects. Among LTNA assets are several caves considered significant from an exploration, conservation or educational standpoint.

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Land Trust of North Alabama works to preserve natural lands, water resources and wildlife habitat in 10 counties of North Alabama, one of the nation’s fastest growing areas. It helps oversee more than 70 miles of free public trails on seven public nature preserves, including Monte Sano Nature Preserve, just two miles from Huntsville City Hall.

The NSS, which owns 15 cave and nature preserves across the United States, pledges to bring its considerable expertise for protecting these delicate underground ecosystems to LTNA properties.

The two groups will share the latest cave management practices, cave protection and management plans and details of potential acquisitions. They will also work on a permitting system for accessing caves on land trust properties. A “leave no trace” approach will be part of the plan.

“The caves and karst features of our area are fascinating — but often fragile — environments. This partnership with the NSS creates new opportunities to collaborate on stewardship efforts and provide the community with educational programs that highlight the unique geology of North Alabama,” says Marie Bostick, LTNA executive director.

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