Caves Law and Legal Definition

A cave is generally defined as any natural subterranean cavity that is at least 50 feet in length or depth, or any combination of length and depth or that contains obligatory cavernicolous fauna (animals obliged to live underground). The word "cave" includes but is not limited to cavern, pit, pothole, well (natural), sinkhole, and/or grotto.

Because of the popularity of caves run for profit as tourist attractions and the state's interest in preserving its natural resources, some states have laws which govern activities at caves. Such laws deal with issues such as liability for the safety of cave visitors and prohibition of littering and underground water pollution.

The following is an example of a state statute dealing with caves:

"It shall be unlawful and constitute a misdemeanor for any person, organization, firm or corporation, including an officer, agent or employee of any town or municipality to:

  1. Maliciously break, break off, crack, carve upon, write, burn, damage, or otherwise mar or mark on, remove, or in any other manner destroy, disturb, deface, mar or harm the walls or any speleothem in any cave, except for recognized scientific purposes.
  2. Discard litter or refuse to any degree in any cave.
  3. Break, force, tamper with, remove, or otherwise disturb a lock, gate, door, or other structure or obstruction designed to control or prevent access to any cave, unless such act is specifically ordered by the owner.
  4. Offer for sale any speleothem or export from the State of Alabama speleothems for sale elsewhere.
  5. Remove, kill, harm or disturb any plant or animal life found within any wild cave, except for recognized scientific purposes.
  6. The provisions of subdivisions (1) through (6) of this section shall not apply to a recognized rescue unit operating in response to an emergency or believed emergency."