I’d like to invite anyone with an interest in cave and karst management and conservation to come and join us in Bristol for the 2019 National Cave and Karst Management Symposium.  We’re holding the Symposium the week before the TAG Fall Cave-in, so this presents an opportunity to combine two great events into one trip. The Symposium will be held from the evening of Monday, October 7 through noon on Friday, October 11.  We have a great week planned. The Wednesday field trip will feature Natural Tunnel State Park, Cumberland Gap National Historic Park’s Gap Cave, and the Gray Fossil Site Museum – an ancient karst feature containing some of the most significant Cenozoic fossil remains in eastern North America.

The twin cities of Bristol Virginia and Tennessee reflect the long and complex history of the Appalachians, and serve as the gateway to the complex and highly biodiverse karst areas of the Mountain Empire, as southwestern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee are known. Known as well as the Birthplace of Country Music, Bristol is home to many restaurants and venues that conference attendees may explore.  Shuttles between the hotel and downtown areas will be available Tuesday evening, which kicks off with a social at a downtown microbrewery.

A central theme of this year’s NCKMS will be cave and karst management on private lands.  In the east, the vast majority of caves are privately held, and their conservation depends on the stewardship of individual citizens and private conservancies.  During the conference, we will highlight the achievements and approaches of the numerous conservancies working in the area, including the Appalachian Cave Conservancy, the Cave Conservancy of the Virginias, the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, and the West Virginia Cave Conservancy.  To this end, we will offer pre-conference field trips starting Saturday, October 5 that will allow participants to visit up to six caves owned and managed by these organizations as well as the state and federal governments. The field trip will be structured so that participants can choose one, two, or three day options.

For those involved in biodiversity conservation, we have a special treat available on Monday, October 7 – a field trip called “Learning about Lirceus – taxonomy, genetics, biogeography, and conservation” which will highlight results of recent research on the genus and the implications of this research for conservation biology.  Participants will get to see both surface and cave-adapted populations and have an opportunity to discuss on site this biogeographical puzzle and the conservation challenges it creates. The cave sites will include opportunities to see other cave fauna endemic to the Mountain Empire.

So, to use a Mountain Empire colloquialism, “if you don’t care” please come join us for a week next October at the 2019 National Cave and Karst Management Symposium.

Hope y’all can make it!

Wil Orndorff, Chairperson 2019 NCKMS
Virginia Natural Heritage Program