WVASS was founded by Roger Baroody (NSS 4871F) in 1967. Roger's intent was to have an organization that would continue the survey begun by William E. Davies in Caverns of West Virginia and its supplements, which appeared up until 1965. When it appeared that the West Virginia Geological Survey would not publish further updates to Davies's book, even though large quantities of new data were becoming available, the need for some sort of continuing survey to gather information about West Virginia's caves and karst became apparent.
WVASS is as unorganized an organization as is possible to have and still get things done. WVASS is basically a voluntary association of cavers and caving groups, each of which pursues its own interests. We have participants, but no members. Initially there was no constitution, no dues, and few rules. There is cooperation because we have a common desire: to gather and maintain information about West Virginia caves and karst.
WVASS is run by an informal coalition of directors; i.e., individuals who have taken the responsibility of organizing county or area cave surveys or who have done substantial karst and cave research in West Virginia. Meetings are informally held about 2 times a year, generally to discuss the progress of various reports, how they will be funded and published. A list of participating organizations and directors is given on other pages of this web site. The list is completely unofficial and will probably insult some people by leaving them out and others by including them.
In 1978, WVASS became a Study Group of the NSS, with the stated objective of compiling and, where appropriate, publishing information about West Virginia caves and karst. Then in 1987, WVASS was granted 501c3 tax exempt status by the IRS which means we can accept donations of money and property for which the donor may take a tax deduction.
The physical output of WVASS is a series of publications, 18 of which have been published to date. From the beginning, we've tried to maintain a balance between bulletins that give cave descriptions and those reporting on specific karst research. So far, 5 bulletins have been of the former type and 13 of the later. The cave survey bulletins have, so far, provided descriptions of over 2175 caves in 14 West Virginia counties. The non-cave survey bulletins consist of a master's thesis on cave development, a bibliography of West Virginia caves and karst, and bulletins on the invertebrate and vertebrate fauna of West Virginia caves. A complete list of publications can be found on other pages of this web site.
It is the policy of WVASS to sell bulletins only to NSS members and individuals and agencies doing karst research or those having some specific need for the information. Beginning with the first bulletin in 1971, WVASS has published over 3000 pages of information funded primarily out of the pockets of individual directors, a few grants, and loans from other caving organizations. To date we've invested more than $95,000 of our own money in the bulletins. Of course we receive money back through sales, but there is still a risk involved, especially when we publish a bulletin we know won't sell in volume but which we feel should be published. The bibliography is such an example.
When we do published we exercise some discretion about what gets printed. Certain caves contain unique speleothems, rare forms of cave life, or have serious landowner-caver relations problems. For these caves, we may choose not to publish anything. This a a value judgment that many cavers have to make at some point. We would rather be accused of being secretive for writing about some caves and not others, than to write about all of them and perhaps loose those things which make the caves of value. We do make an effort to be as open as possible with the information we gather and to share it with others having a mutual interest in the caves involved. What is important to us is not that we publish a lot of material about caves, but that the material that exists is not lost and can be kept for use by researchers and the caving community
Progress in the West Virginia Speleological Survey is continuing at a steady pace. In addition to the 15 bulletins published, a dozen other bulletins are in various stages of research and production. We have enough work to keep us busy for many years to come.
Our biggest problem, as with many enterprises, is money. It costs us close to $15,000 to publish a 175-200 page bulletin. This represents a substantial outlay for most of us and is a real constraint to putting bulletins out more rapidly. It takes about two years to recover the money from sales, if the bulletin sells well. Bulletin 3, the bibliography, took 10 years to pay for itself. All profit from sales goes to publish future bulletins. No one is paid a salary or makes any money, or is reimbursed for their caving expenses.
We have no publication schedule. Bulletins get published when the compiler is ready and when the money is available. We will continue to publish because the information is in demand and has proven to be useful to researchers and the caving community.
Visit the WVASS Publications page for a list of WVASS publications, as well as other West Virginia cave and karst related publications available through WVASS.
Check the status of West Virginia caves on the Virginia Region Limited Access Caves list.
Report information on West Virginia caves with the West Virginia Cave Report Form.
Group photo of attendees at the WVASS April 2005 meeting at Bill Balfour's Cave Hollow Farm - Photo by Carroll Bassett