All cavers should be aware of any laws which may relate to their caving activities. This page contains excerpts from California and Federal law, and should be required reading for all cavers and landowners with caves on their property. If you are interested in the full text of these documents, an excellent source for California codes is at LegInfo. If you’re interested in other US state laws, Yahoo has a good legal section with tons of links to other resources, as does Lycos law section. There are also links to cave laws for a few other states, found below.
Note: The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. These excerpts have been modified with html markup. Unless otherwise noted, this is the text of these laws as of the date they were originally passed, and may not be current. If in doubt, double check!
599c. No part of this title shall be construed as interfering with any of the laws of this state known as the “game laws,” or any laws for or against the destruction of certain birds, nor must this title be construed as interfering with the right to destroy any venomous reptile, or any animal known as dangerous to life, limb, or property, or to interfere with the right to kill all animals used for food, or with properly conducted scientific experiments or investigations performed under the authority of the faculty of a regularly incorporated medical college or university of this state.
623. (a) Except as otherwise provided in Section 599c, any person who, without the prior written permission of the owner of a cave, intentionally and knowingly does any of the following acts is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not
exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both such fine and imprisonment:
|(1)||Breaks, breaks off, cracks, carves upon, paints, writes or otherwise marks upon or in any manner destroys, mutilates, injures, defaces, mars, or harms any natural material found in any cave.|
|(2)||Disturbs or alters any archaeological evidence of prior occupation in any cave.|
|(3)||Kills, harms, or removes any animal or plant life found in any cave.|
|(4)||Burns any material which produces any smoke or gas which is harmful to any plant or animal found in any cave.|
|(5)||Removes any material found in any cave.|
|(6)||Breaks, forces, tampers with, removes or otherwise disturbs any lock, gate, door, or any other structure or obstruction designed to prevent entrance to any cave, whether or not entrance is gained.
(b) For purposes of this section:
|(1)||“Cave” means any natural geologically formed void or cavity beneath the surface of
the earth, not including any mine, tunnel, aqueduct, or other manmade excavation, which is large enough to permit a person to enter.
|(2)||“Owner” means the person or private or public agency which has the right of
possession to the cave.
|(3)||“Natural material” means any stalactite, stalagmite, helictite, anthodite, gypsum
flower or needle, flowstone, drapery, column, tufa dam, clay or mud formation or concretion, crystalline mineral formation, and any wall, ceiling, or mineral protuberance therefrom, whether attached or broken, found in any cave.
|(4)||“Material” means all or any part of any archaeological, paleontological, biological, or historical item including, but not limited to, any petroglyph, pictograph, basketry, human remains, tool, beads, pottery, projectile point, remains of historical mining activity or any other occupation found in any cave.|
|(c)||The entering or remaining in a cave by itself shall not constitute a violation of this
846. An owner of any estate or any other interest in real property, whether possessory or nonpossessory, owes no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry or use by others for any recreational purpose or to give any warning of hazardous conditions, uses of, structures, or activities on such premises to persons entering for such purpose, except as provided in this section.
A “recreational purpose,” as used in this section, includes such activities as fishing, hunting, camping, water sports, hiking, spelunking, sport parachuting, riding, including animal riding, snowmobiling, and all other types of vehicular riding, rock collecting, sightseeing, picnicking, nature study, nature contacting, recreational gardening, gleaning, hang gliding, winter sports, and viewing or enjoying historical, archaeological, scenic, natural, or scientific sites.
An owner of any estate or any other interest in real property, whether possessory or nonpossessory, who gives permission to another for entry or use for the above purpose upon the premises does not thereby (a) extend any assurance that the premises are safe for such purpose, or (b) constitute the person to whom permission has been granted the legal status of an invitee or licensee to whom a duty of care is owed, or (c) assume responsibility for or incur liability for any injury to person or property caused by any act of such person to whom permission has been granted except as provided in this section.
This section does not limit the liability which otherwise exists (a) for willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition, use, structure or activity; or (b) for injury suffered in any case where permission to enter for the above purpose was granted for a consideration other than the consideration, if any, paid to said landowner by the state, or where consideration has been received from others for the same purpose; or (c) to any persons who are expressly invited rather than merely permitted to come upon the premises by the landowner.
Nothing in this section creates a duty of care or ground of liability for injury to person or property.
831.7. (a) Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable to any person who participates in a hazardous recreational activity, including any person who assists the participant, or to any spectator who knew or reasonably should have known that the hazardous recreational activity created a substantial risk of injury to himself or herself and was voluntarily in the place of risk, or having the ability to do so failed to leave, for any damage or injury to property or persons arising out of that hazardous recreational activity.
(b) As used in this section, “hazardous recreational activity” means a recreational activity conducted on property of a public entity which creates a substantial (as distinguished from a minor, trivial, or insignificant) risk of injury to a participant or a spectator.
“Hazardous recreational activity” also means:
|(1)||Water contact activities, except diving, in places where or at a time when lifeguards are not provided and reasonable warning thereof has been given or the injured party should reasonably have known that there was no lifeguard provided at the time.|
|(2)||Any form of diving into water from other than a diving board or diving platform, or at any place or from any structure where diving is prohibited and reasonable warning thereof has been given.|
|(3)||Animal riding, including equestrian competition, archery, bicycle racing or jumping, mountain bicycling, boating, cross-country and downhill skiing, hang gliding, kayaking, motorized vehicle racing, off-road motorcycling or four-wheel driving of any kind, orienteering, pistol and rifle shooting, rock climbing, rocketeering, rodeo, spelunking, sky diving, sport parachuting, paragliding, body contact sports (i.e., sports in which it is reasonably foreseeable that there will be rough bodily contact with one or more participants), surfing, trampolining, tree climbing, tree rope swinging, waterskiing, white water rafting, and windsurfing. For the purposes of this subdivision, “mountain bicycling” does not include riding a bicycle on paved pathways, roadways, or sidewalks.|
(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (a), this section does not limit liability which would otherwise exist for any of the following:
|(1)||Failure of the public entity or employee to guard or warn of a known dangerous condition or of another hazardous recreational activity known to the public entity or employee that is not reasonably assumed by the participant as inherently a part of the hazardous recreational activity out of which the damage or injury arose.|
|(2)||Damage or injury suffered in any case where permission to participate in the hazardous recreational activity was granted for a specific fee. For the purpose of this paragraph, a “specific fee” does not include a fee or consideration charged for a general purpose such as a general park admission charge, a vehicle entry or parking fee, or an administrative or group use application or permit fee, as distinguished from a specific fee charged for participation in the specific hazardous recreational activity out of which the damage or injury arose.|
|(3)||Injury suffered to the extent proximately caused by the negligent failure of the public entity or public employee to properly construct or maintain in good repair any structure, recreational equipment or machinery, or substantial work of improvement utilized in the hazardous recreational activity out of which the damage or injury arose.|
|(4)||Damage or injury suffered in any case where the public entity or employee recklessly or with gross negligence promoted the participation in or observance of a hazardous recreational activity. For purposes of this paragraph, promotional literature or a public announcement or advertisement which merely describes the available facilities and services on the property does not in itself constitute a reckless or grossly negligent promotion.|
|(5)||An act of gross negligence by a public entity or a public employee which is the proximate cause of the injury. Nothing in this subdivision creates a duty of care or basis of liability for personal injury or for damage to personal property.|
(d) Nothing in this section shall limit the liability of an independent concessionaire, or any person or organization other than the public entity, whether or not the person or organization has a contractual relationship with the public entity to use the public property, for injuries or damages suffered in any case as a result of the operation of a hazardous recreational activity on public property by the concessionaire, person, or organization.
Federal Cave Resources Protection Act Reprinted (with corrections) from the NSS News, December 1988, pp 460-461.
- Sec 1. SHORT title.
- Sec. 2. FINDINGS, PURPOSES, AND POliCY.
- Sec. 3. DEFINITIONS.
- Sec. 4. MANAGEMENT ACTIONS.
- Sec. 5. CONFIDENTIAliTY OF INFORMATION CONCERNING NATURE AND LOCATION OF SIGNIFICANT CAVES.
- Sec. 6. COLLECTION AND REMOVAL FROM FEDERAL CAVES.
- Sec. 7. PROHIBITED ACTS AND CRIMINAL PENALTIES.
- Sec. 8. CIVIL PENALTIES.
- Sec. 9. MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS.
- Sec. 10. SAVINGS PROVISIONS.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN CONGRESS
SEC 1 SHORT title. This Act may be referred to as the “Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988”
SEC. 2. FINDINGS, PURPOSES, AND POliCY.
a) FINDINGS. The Congress finds and declares that– (1) significant caves on Federal lands are an invaluable and irreplaceable part of the Nation’s natural heritage; and (2) in some instances, these significant caves are threatened due to improper use, increased recreational demand, urban spread, and a lack of specific statutory protection.
(b) PURPOSES.–The purposes of this Act are– (1) to secure, protect, and preserve significant caves on Federal lands for the perpetual use, enjoyment, and benefit of all people; and (2) to foster increased cooperation and exchange of information between governmental authorities and those who utilize caves located on Federal lands for scientific, education, or recreational purposes.
(c) POliCY.–It is the policy of the United States that Federal lands be managed in a manner which protects and maintains, to the extent practical, significant caves.
SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.
For purposes of this Act:
The term “cave” means any naturally occurring void, cavity, recess, or system of interconnected passages which occurs beneath the surface of the earth or within a cliff or ledge (including any cave resource therein, but not including any vug, mine, tunnel, aqueduct, or other manmade excavation) and which is large enough to permit an individual to enter, whether or not the entrance is naturally formed or manmade. Such term shall include any natural pit, sinkhole, or other feature which is an extension of the entrance.
(2) FEDERAL LANDS.
The term “Federal lands” means lands the fee title to which is owned by the United States and administered by the Secretary of Agriculture or the Secretary of the Interior.
(3) INDIAN LANDS.
The term “Indian lands” means lands of Indian tribes or Indian individuals which are either held in trust by the United States for the benefit of an Indian tribe or subject to a restriction against alienation imposed by the United States.
(4) INDIAN trIBE.
The term “Indian tribe” means any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community of Indians, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in, or established pursuant to, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.).
(5) CAVE RESOURCE.
The term “cave resource” includes any material or substance occurring naturally in caves on Federal lands, such as animal life, plant life, paleontological deposits, sediments, minerals, speleogens, and speleothems.
The term “Secretary” means the Secretary of Agriculture or the Secretary of the Interior, as appropriate.
The term “speleothem” means any natural mineral formation or deposit occurring in a cave or lava tube, including but not limited to any stalactite, stalagmite, helictite, cave flower, flowstone, concretion, drapery, rimstone, or formation of clay or mud.
The term “speleogen” means relief features on the walls, ceiling, and floor of any cave or lava tube which are part of the surrounding bedrock, including but not limited to anastomoses, scallops, meander niches, petromorphs and rock pendants in solution caves and similar features unique to volcanic caves.
SEC. 4. MANAGEMENT ACTIONS.
(a) REGulATIONS. Not later than nine months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall issue such regulations as he deems necessary to achieve the purposes of the Act. Regulations shall include, but not be limited to, criteria for the identification of significant caves The Secretaries shall cooperate and consult with one another in preparation of the regulations. To the extent practical regulations promulgated by the respective Secretaries should be similar.
(b) IN GENERAL. The secretary shall take such actions as may be necessary to further the purposes of this Act. These actions shall include (but not be limited to):
|(1)||identification of significant caves on federal lands;|
|(A)||The Secretary shall prepare an initial list of significant caves for lands under his jurisdiction not later than one year after the publication of final regulations using the significance criteria defined in such regulations. Such a list shall be developed after consultation with appropriate private sector interests, including cavers.|
|(B)||The initial list of significant caves shall be updated periodically, after consultation with appropriate private sector interests, including cavers. The Secretary shall prescribe by policy or regulation the requirements and process by which the initial list will be updated, including management measures to assure that caves under consideration for the list are protected during the period of consideration. Each cave recommended to the Secretary by interested groups for possible inclusion on the list of significant caves shall be considered by the Secretary according to the requirements prescribed pursuant to this paragraph and shall be added to the list if the Secretary determines that the cave meets the criteria for significance as defined by the regulations.|
(c) PLANNING AND PUBliC PARTICIPATION.
The Secretary shall:
(1) ensure that significant caves are considered in the preparation or implementation of any land management plan if the preparation or revision of the plan began after the enactment of this Act;
(2) foster communication, cooperation, and exchange of information between land managers, those who utilize caves, and the public.
SEC. 5. CONFIDENTIAliTY OF INFORMATION CONCERNING NATURE AND LOCATION OF SIGNIFICANT CAVES.
|(a)||IN GENERAL. Information concerning the specific location of any significant cave may not be made available to the public under section 552 of title 5, United States Code, unless the Secretary determines that disclosure of such information would further the purposes of this Act and would not create a substantial risk of harm, theft, or destruction of such cave.|
|(b)||EXCEPTIONS. Notwithstanding subsection (a), the Secretary may make available information regarding significant caves upon the written request by Federal and state governmental agencies or bona fide educational and research institutions. Any such written request shall, at a minimum:
SEC. 6. COLLECTION AND REMOVAL FROM FEDERAL CAVES.
(a) PERMIT. The Secretary is authorized to issue permits for the collection and removal of cave resources under such terms and conditions as the Secretary may impose, including the posting of bonds to insure compliance with the provisions of any permit.
(1) Any permit issued pursuant to this section shall include information concerning the time, scope, location, and specific purpose of the proposed collection, removal or associated activity, and the manner in which such collection, removal, or associated activity is to be performed must be provided.
(2) The Secretary may issue a permit pursuant this subsection only it he determines that the proposed collection or removal activities are consistent with the purposes of this Act and with other applicable provisions of law.
(b) REVOCATION OF PERMIT. Any permit issued under this section shall be revoked by the Secretary upon a determination by the Secretary that the permittee has violated any provision of this Act, or has failed to comply with any other condition upon which the permit was issued. Any such permit shall be revoked by the Secretary upon assessment of a civil penalty against the permittee pursuant to section 8 or upon the permittee’s conviction under section 7 of this Act. The Secretary may refuse to issue a permit under this section to any person who has violated any provision of this Act or who has failed to comply with any condition of a prior permit.
(c) TRANSFERABIliTY OF PERMITS. Permits issued under this act are not transferable.
(d) CAVE RESOURCES LOCATED ON INDIAN LANDS.
(1)(A) Upon application by an Indian tribe, the Secretary is authorized to delegate to the tribe all authority of the Secretary under this section with respect to issuing and enforcing permits for the collection or removal of any cave resource located on the affected Indian lands.
(B) In the case of any permit issued by the Secretary for the collection or removal of any cave resource, or to carry out activities associated with such collection or removal, from any cave resource located on Indian lands (other than permits issued pursuant to subparagraph (A)), the permit may be issued only after obtaining the consent of the Indian or Indian tribe owning or having jurisdiction over such lands. The permit shall include such reasonable terms and conditions as may be requested by such Indian or Indian tribe.
(2) If the Secretary determines that issuance of a permit pursuant to this section may result in harm to, or destruction of, any religious or cultural site, the Secretary, prior to issuing such permit, shall notify any Indian tribe which may consider the site as having significant religious or cultural importance. Such notice
shall not be deemed a disclosure to the public for purposes of section 5.
(3) A permit shall not be required under this section for the collection or removal of any cave resource located on Indian lands or activities associated with such collection, by the Indian or Indian tribe owning or having jurisdiction over such lands.
(e) EFFECT OF PERMIT. No action specifically authorized by a permit under this section shall be treated as a violation of section 7.
SEC. 7. PROHIBITED ACTS AND CRIMINAL PENALTIES.
(a) PROHIBITED ACTS.
(1) Any person who, without prior authorization from the Secretary, knowingly destroys, disturbs, defaces, mars, alters, removes or harms any significant cave or alters the free movement of any animal or plant life into or out of any significant cave located on Federal lands, or enters a significant cave with the intention of committing any act described in this paragraph shall be punished in accordance with subsection (b).
(2) Any person who possesses, consumes, sells, barters or exchanges, or offers for sale, barter or exchange, any cave resource from a significant cave with knowledge or reason to know that such resource was removed from a significant cave located on Federal lands shall be punished in accordance with subsection (b).
(3) Any person who counsels, procures, solicits, or employs any other person to violate any provisions of this subsection shall be punished in accordance with subsection (b).
(4) Nothing in this section shall be deemed applicable to any person who was in lawful possession of a cave resource from a significant cave prior to the date of enactment of this Act.
(b) PUNISHMENT. The punishment for violating any provision of subsection (a) shall be imprisonment of not more than one year or a fine in accordance with the applicable provisions of title 18 of the United States Code, or both. In the case of a second or subsequent violation, the punishment shall be imprisonment of not more than 3 years or a fine in accordance with the applicable provisions of title 18 of the United States Code, or both.
SEC. 8. CIVIL PENALTIES.
(1) The Secretary may issue an order assessing a civil penalty against any person who violates any prohibition contained in this Act, any regulation promulgated pursuant to this Act, or any permit issued under this Act. Before issuing such an order, the Secretary shall provide such person written notice and the opportunity to request a hearing on the record within 30 days. Each violation shall be a separate offense, even if such violations occurred at the same time.
(2) The amount of such civil penalty shall be determined by the Secretary taking into account appropriate factors, including (A) the seriousness of the violation; (B) the economic benefit (if any) resulting from the violation; (C) any history of such violations; and (D) such other matters as the Secretary deems appropriate. The maximum fine permissible under this section is $10,000.
(b) JUDICIAL REVIEW. Any person aggrieved by an assessment of a civil penalty under this section may file a petition for judicial review of such assessment with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia or for the district in which the violation occurred.Such a petition shall be filed within the 30-day period beginning on the date the order assessing the civil penalty was issued.
(c) COLLECTION. If any person fails to pay an assessment of a civil penalty
(1) within 30 days after the order was issued under subsection (a), or
(2) if the order is appealed within such 30-day period, within 10 days after the court has entered a final judgment in favor of the Secretary under subsection(b), the Secretary shall notify the Attorney General and the Attorney General shall bring a civil action in an appropriate United States district court to recover the amount of penalty assessed (plus costs, attorneys’ fees, and interest at currently prevailing rates from the date the order was issued or the date of such final judgment, as the case may be). In such an action, the validity, amount, and appropriateness of such penalty shall not be subject to review.
(d) SUBPOENAS. The Secretary may issue subpoenas in connection with proceedings under this subsection compelling the attendance and testimony of witnesses and subpoenas duces tecum, and may request the Attorney General to bring an action to enforce any subpoena under this section. The district courts shall have jurisdiction to enforce such subpoena and impose sanctions.
SEC. 9. MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS.
(a) AUTHORIZATION. There are authorized to be appropriated $100,000 to carry out the purposes of this Act.
(b) EFFECT ON LAND MANAGEMENT PLANS. Nothing in this act shall require the amendment or revision of any land management plan, the preparation of which began prior to the enactment of this Act.
(c) FUND. Any money collected by the United States as permit fees for collection and removal of cave resources; received by the United States as a result of the forfeiture of a bond or other security by a permittee who does not comply with the requirements of such permit issued under section 7; or collected by the United States by way of civil penalties or criminal fines for violations of this Act shall be placed in a special fund in the Treasury. Such moneys shall be available for obligation or expenditure (to the extent provided for in advance in appropriation Acts) as determined by the Secretary for the improved management, benefit, repair, or restoration of significant caves located on Federal lands.
(d) Nothing in this act shall be deemed to affect the full operation of the mining and mineral leasing laws of the United States, or otherwise affect valid existing rights.
SEC. 10. SAVINGS PROVISIONS.
(a) WATER. Nothing in this Act shall be construed as authorizing the appropriation of water by any Federal, State, or local agency, Indian tribe, or any other entity or individual. Nor shall any provision of this Act.
(1) affect the rights or jurisdiction of the United States, the States, Indian tribes, or other entities over water of any river or stream or over any groundwater resource;
(2) alter, amend, repeal, interpret, modify, or be in conflict with any interstate compact made by the States; or
(3) alter or establish the respective rights of States, the United States, Indian tribes, or any person with respect to any water or water-related right.
(b) FISH AND WILDLIFE. Nothing in this Act shall be construed as affecting the jurisdiction or responsibilities of the States with respect to fish and wildlife.
Many other states have laws protecting cave resources as well. The Virginia Region maintains a list of laws for many states. If your state doesn’t have cave protection laws, talk to your local state representative and ask them why! Currently listed are laws for: Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virigina. You’ll also find the US Federal Cave Protection Act of 1988, the Lechuguilla Cave Protection Act of 1993, the National Cave and Karst Research Institute Act of 1998, and a couple of court decisions relating to caves and cave ownership. Nice resource!