One of the world's largest caving conservancies opens headquarters in Chattanooga

Amber Lehmann climbs out of Stephens Gap Cave, a 100-plus foot drop into the SCCi property in Jackson County, Ala.
photo Amber Lehmann climbs out of Stephens Gap Cave, a 100-plus foot drop into the SCCi property in Jackson County, Ala.

One of the world's largest conservancies dedicated primarily to preserving caves has opened its headquarters on Signal Mountain.

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc. - an organization with 1,000-plus members, volunteers and one full-time employee - moved into its Fairmont Pike facilities last month and will coordinate its conservation efforts across the region from the local office.

"Chattanooga is the center of caving for America," said Buddy Lane, one of the founding members of the organization.

More than 17,000 known caves are in the Southeast, with thousands of those in the Chattanooga area. The tri-state region, referred to by cavers as TAG (Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia), may be the most-renowned caving destination in the U.S.