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Georgia Cave Protection Law

CHAPTER 43-25. CAVE PROTECTION ACT OF 1977 Section. 43-2501

This Chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Cave Protection Act of 1977." (Acts 1977, p. 833, eff. July 1, 1977. Cross References Penalty for violation of Chapter, see 43-9916.) 

Section 43-2502 Findings

The State of Georgia hereby finds that caves are uncommon geologic phenomena, and that the minerals deposited therein may be rare and occur in unique forms of great beauty, which are irreplaceable if destroyed. It is also found that the wildlife which have evolved to live in caves are unusual and of limited numbers, and many are rare and endangered species, and that caves are a natural conduit for groundwater flow and are highly subject to water pollution, which has far-reaching effects transcending man's property boundaries. It is therefore declared to be the policy of this State and the intent of this Chapter to protect these unique natural resources. (Acts 1977, p. 833, eff. July 1, 1977.)

Section 43-2503 Definitions 

Unless the context in which used clearly requires a different meaning, as used in this Chapter: 

(a) "cave" means any naturally occurring subterranean cavity, including, but not restricted to, a cavern, pit, pothole, natural well, sinkhole and grotto; 

(b) "commercial cave" means any cave with improved trails and lighting utilized by the owner for the purpose of exhibition to the general public as a profit or nonprofit enterprise, wherein a fee is collected for entry; 

(c) "gate" means any structure or device located so as to limit or prohibit access or entry to a cave; 

(d) "owner" means a person who owns title to land where a cave is located, including a person who owns title to a leasehold estate in such land, and specifically includes the State and any of its agencies, departments, boards, bureaus, commissions or authorities, as well as counties, municipalities and other political subdivisions of the State; 

(e) "sinkhole" means a closed topographic depression or basin, generally draining underground, including, but not restricted to, a doline, limesink or sink; 

(f) "speleothem" means a natural mineral formation or deposit occurring in a cave, including, but not restricted to, stalagmites, stalactites, helectites, anthodites, gypsum flowers, gypsum needles, angel's hair, soda straws, draperies, bacon, cave pearls, popcorn (coral), rimstone dams, columns, palettes, and flowstone. Speleothems are commonly composed of calcite, espomite, gypsum, aragonite, celestite and other similar minerals; 

(g) "wildlife" means any vertebrate or invertebrate animal life indigenous to this State or any species introduced or specified by the Board of Natural Resources and includes, but is not restricted to, quadrupeds, mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans and mollusks, or any part thereof. (Acts 1977, p. 833, eff. July 1, 1977.) 

Section 43-2504 Vandalism unlawful

It shall be unlawful for any person, without the express prior written permission of the owner, to willfully or knowingly:

(1) break, break off, crack, carve upon, write upon, burn, mark upon, remove, or in any manner destroy, disturb, deface, mar or harm the surfaces of any cave or any natural material therein, including speleothems; 

(2) disturb or alter in any manner the natural condition of any cave; 

(3) break, force, tamper with or otherwise disturb a lock, gate, door or other obstruction designed to control or prevent access to any cave, even though entrance thereto may not be gained. (Acts 1977, pp. 833, 834, eff. July 1, 1977.)(Violation is a misdemeanor)

Section 43-2505 Sale of speleothems unlawful 

It shall be unlawful to sell or offer for sale any speleothems in this State or to export them for sale outside this State without the express written permission of the owner of the cave from which such speleothems were obtained. (Acts 1977, pp. 833, 835, eff. July 1, 1977.) (Violation is a misdemeanor)

Section 43-2506 Pollution and littering unlawful

It shall be unlawful to store in caves or sinkholes any chemicals and other materials which may be detrimental or hazardous to caves or sinkholes, to the mineral deposits therein, to the wildlife inhabiting caves, to the waters of the State, or to the persons using such phenomenon for any purposes. It shall also be unlawful to dump, litter, dispose of or otherwise place any refuse, garbage, dead animals, sewage, trash, or other such similar waste materials in any quantity in any cave or sinkhole. (Acts 1977, pp. 833, 835, eff. July 1, 1977.) (Violation is a misdemeanor)

Section 43-2507 Wildlife

It shall be unlawful to remove, kill, harm or disturb any wildlife found within any cave: Provided, however, that nothing contained in this Section shall be construed to repeal Section 32 of an Act completely and exhaustively, revising, superseding and consolidating laws of this State relative to game and fish, approved March 7, 1955 (Ga. Laws 1968, pp. 497, 515) [former 45-208], relating to scientific collectors' permits or any rules or regulations promulgated pursuant thereto or any Federal or State laws relating to the protection of certain plants or animals. (Acts 1977, pp. 833, 835, eff. July 1, 1977.) (Violation is a misdemeanor)

Section 43-2508 Liability of owners and agents 

(a) Neither the owner of a cave nor his authorized agents, officers, employees or designated representatives acting within the scope of their authority shall be liable for injuries sustained by any person using said cave for recreational or scientific purposes if the prior consent of the owner has been obtained and if no charge has been made for the use of such features and notwithstanding that an inquiry as to the experience or expertise of the individual seeking consent may have been made.

(b) Neither the owner of a commercial cave nor his authorized agents, officers, employees or designated representatives acting within the scope of their authority shall be liable for an injury sustained by a spectator who has paid to view the cave, unless such injury is sustained as a result of such owner's negligence in connection with the providing and maintaining of trails, stairs, electrical wires or other modifications, and such negligence shall be the proximate cause of the injury. 

(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to constitute a waiver of the sovereign immunity of the State or any of its boards, departments, bureaus or agencies. (Acts, 1977, pp. 833, 836, eff. July 1, 1977.) 

NOTE: A misdemeanor is a fine not less than $50.00 and not more than $1,000.00 and maybe imprisonment in jail up to one year.


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