To protect a globally rare salamander, The Nature Conservancy and Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville have collaborated on the construction of three state-of-the-art cave gates at a cave system adjoining the Ijams property. The nature center is located just three miles from downtown Knoxville.
The gates were installed at the Georgia Marble Quarry, a former limestone and marble quarry that was donated to the Legacy Parks Foundation in 2007 and that will ultimately belong to the City of Knoxville. The 103-acre property has not been actively used as a quarry since the 1970s and is now being managed by Ijams Nature Center.
The cave system underneath the Georgia Marble Quarry features underground streams and harbors a number of cave creatures, most notably the globally rare Berry cave salamander. Related to the more common Tennessee cave salamander, the Berry cave salamander can only be found at five caves in the Knoxville area.
To protect this rare species, the cave habitat and visitors from injury, a team led by the Conservancy and cave-gate expert Roy Powers built metal gates at three caves entrances. Since 1984, the Conservancy has successfully gated numerous caves across Tennessee with lockable structures that allow authorized people to enter and also allow bats to fly easily in and out.
Construction is largely funded through the Cave Landowner Incentive Program (Cave LIP). Funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and administered by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Cave LIP projects in Tennessee are directed by The Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee Cave Program and the program’s manager, Cory Holliday.
The team installing the gates included Holliday, cave-gating expert and engineering professor Roy Powers, cave expert Heather Garland, Chris Clark of the American Cave Conservation Association and Ijams park management staff Ed Yost and Ben Nanny.
“Ijams’ programmatic priorities include the protection and conservation of green spaces, as well as increasing awareness and appreciation of endangered species,” said Paul James, executive director of Ijams Nature Center. “The gating of these caves will provide critical habitat protection to allow the Berry cave salamander to flourish. Interpretation and exhibits will be later added to educate the public about this rare and important species”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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