Where did the Conservancy come from?
1985...the story starts
Vancouver Island caver Phil Whitfield became involved with an American cave/karst management
training team involving such luminaries as the late Dr. George Huppert, Ron Kerbo of the National
Park Service, Tom Aley of the Ozark Underground Laboratory, Jim Nieland of the US Forest Service
and Jer Thornton of Idaho, then NSS Conservation Chair. The team travelled to various locations
around the States, spreading the conservation gospel to audiences of cavers, government agency
staff and commercial cave operators.
The ACCA Connection
Through these activities, Phil became aware of the American Cave Conservation Association, a
national non-profit organization formed in 1977 for the purpose of protecting and preserving caves,
karstlands and groundwater. The ACCA operated in cooperation with the National Speleological
Society, promoting the conservation education agenda. Phil joined the ACCA in 1985, served as a
director for two years, and in 1992 became a life member, from which position he was able to
observe the maturing of the society into a major force in American cave/karst conservation.
The Island Connection
Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island in 1985, BC Parks was preparing a management plan for the Horne
Lake Caves Park. The park had been established in 1971 but had seen little development, other
than subsidized public guiding on a volunteer basis by the Vancouver Island Cave Exploration Group
(VICEG). With input from Tom Aley and Stephen Fairchild, a California commercial cave operator,
the Horne Lake Caves Park Master Plan proposed facility and interpretive improvements, building
into ultimate development of the beautiful Euclataws Cave as a "show cave". The Vancouver Island
caving community was keen to remain involved with the park, recognizing that its features and its
location close to provincial population centres and a main highway made it the best place in the
Province to educate the general public about caves and karst. However, operation and development
of the park was clearly beyond the purpose and resources of VICEG.
The Conservancy is Born
Inspired by the example of the ACCA, Island cavers decided to form and register a non-profit
society which would operate and support development of Horne Lake Caves Park. The concept was
that the Park would serve as an education centre and tourist attraction, which would eventually
generate revenue to support cave conservation activities elsewhere in British Columbia and across
Canada. With no one else in this field across the country at the time, and a national agenda in mind
for the longer term, the name "Canadian Cave Conservancy" was selected and the Constitution
defined society purposes as:
To further the conservation of cave and karst resouces in Canada by:
i) supporting and undertaking cave and karst inventory, exploration and studies in Canada;
ii) providing a body of expertise on cave and karst conservation and management;
iii) directly or indirectly managing cave and karst resources through acquisition, contractual
agreement or permit, for their intrinsic value and for the benefit and appreciation of the
community and future generations.
iv) educating the public about cave and karst resource values, cave conservation and caving
To receive invest and administer bequests, endowments, trusts and other financial programs and
investments, the purpose of which are to fund the activities of the Society; and:
To receive bequests, trusts, funds and property, and to hold, invest, administer and distribute funds
and property for the purposes of the Society to finance the programs and further the purposes of
the Society as presently set out and for such other purposes as are exclusively charitable and for
such other organizations as are "qualified donees" under the provisions of the Income Tax Act and
for such other purposes and activities which are authorized for registered charities under the
provisions of the Income Tax Act. The directors on their sole and absolute discretion may refuse to
accept any bequests, trusts, funds or property; and:
To do all such other things as are incidental, or conducive to the attainment of the ancillary
purposes and the exercise of the powers of the Society.
The Guiding Commences - 1986
The society was formally registered in April 1986 and obtained federal non-profit status, making it
eligible to receive tax-deductible donations. Two caver employees of the CCC developed and ran a
guiding program in the Park for four-month seasons in the summers of 1987 and 1988, and offered
interpretive slide shows off-site. Several students were employed as guides and assistants, with
varying success. However, with virtually no improvements to Park infrastructure and a low public
profile, the operation served only about 2,000 visitors per season and operated at a loss, in spite of
considerable volunteer support and government grants and subsidies.
The CCC Guiding Ends
Faced with burnout and uncertainties around support for a third season, the CCC withdrew from the
operation in 1989. The following year, a commercial tour operator took on the park operation, but
emphasized the need for firm Parks commitment to development and subsidies to ensure
commercial viability. Ironically, this private sector reality check spurred some of the necessary
capital investment, and in 1993 major surface improvements were formally opened. Combining
excellent business sense with a well-designed and delivered guiding program, the private operation
became firmly established and achieves much of the general public education objective for the Park
originally envisaged by the CCC founders.
The CCC Hibernates
Disassociated from the project for which it was originally created, and with its original organizers
worn down and distracted by other commitments, the CCC ceased to function actively for over a
decade. The society was maintained by its original Treasurer, Gerry Fowler, in a state of suspended
animation by linking its membership with that of VICEG and continuing to file the necessary annual
At the BC Speleological Federation Annual General Meeting in April 2002, participants heard details
of the impacts of the new provincial government elimination of the Ministry of Forests Recreation
Program, which had been responsible for the development of cave/karst management policy and
the management of a number of significant BC caves. They also learned that increased Alberta
government agency interest in cave/karst issues had recently led to inclusion of the popular
Cadomin Caves in Whitehorse Provincial Park. As well, Parks Canada was also reviewing its cave
management approaches in light of the pending public release of a guidebook to Rocky Mountain
caves. As Gerry Fowler noted, these developments would call for more coordinated and effective
cave management activity by the caving community, and it might well be time to revive the CCC to
advance this agenda.
Post-2002 Directions and Progress
It seemed to us that, with relatively few cavers in the organized caving community across Canada, a
national organization would provide for more efficient use of the energy needed to advance the
cave/karst conservation agenda.
Not only would we be able to share information to avoid reinventing the wheel, but a "national"
profile would probably have more influence in local situations than can presently be brought to bear.
Whether or not we ever achieve the profile and success of the American Cave Conservation
Association is problematic, but the model is not a bad one to emulate.
The 2002 Directors identified a number of longer term roles, recognizing that there may be other
worthwhile short or long-term roles or projects for the CCC. Progress has been made on a number
of these directions -
Build a national network of experts in cave/karst management to address the range of
cave/karst conservation and management issues across the country. The CCC has added
mambers in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario but continues be heavily weighted toward British
Provide advice (and lobbying, where necessary) to management agencies on topics such as
cave/karst inventories, research, management and development. Though most active in BC,
the CCC has lobbied and advised agencies in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Northwest
Territories on cave management topics.
Develop "best practices" cave/karst information, management and educational material aimed
at specific "client groups" -
The general public. Considerable activity, particularly since 2011. See Horne Lake Caves
Provincial Park activities under Projects
The caving community
Industry (forest and mining companies, as well as commercial cave/karst enterprises). A
landmark 2003 CCC document, Cave Guiding Standards for British Columbia and Alberta,
has been endorsed by the BCSF and ASS and adopted for use by the Workers
Compensation agencies of both provinces.
Governments and government agencies. Considerable activity in supporting bat‐friendly
cave and mine gates and cave conservation projects. See under the “Projects” tab.
Work towards establishing a standard inventory and classification systems, data management
standards and agreements with other organizations and agencies. Close interaction with the
BC and Alberta caving communities on refinement of standard, integrated inventories and