Save Cliefden Caves Association secretary Harry Burkitt has described the official heritage listing of the cave system as a vital step in saving the caves.
NSW Environment and Heritage Minister, Gabrielle Upton, officially gazetted Cliefden Caves on the State Heritage Register last week.
The Save Cliefden Caves Association and the National Trust have been pushing for a heritage listing of the internationally significant site since an application for listing was made in 2014.
Located at the junction of Limestone Creek and the Belubula River the caves were first discovered during the explorations of surveyor George Evans on May 24, 1815, only 2 years after the crossing of the Blue Mountains.
“The Save Cliefden Caves Association is celebrating the decision by NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton to list Cliefden Caves on the State Heritage Register,” Mr Burkitt said.
He described the move as “fantastic news for environment and heritage in NSW”.
Describing Cliefden Caves as one of the natural wonders of Australia Mr Burkitt said the listing of the caves, fossils and thermal spring on the State Heritage Register will no doubt be welcome news to many groups in the Central West and beyond.
“The community has been pushing for a heritage listing of the caves for some years and we congratulate the Minister and Heritage Council on their decision,” Mr Burkitt said.
“Cliefden's unique limestone caves, 430 million-year-old fossils and rare thermal spring are of international significance, and this announcement helps secure their protection for future generations.”
Mr Burkitt said that he was ever vigilant to ensure the caves and Belubula River Valley remain protected from any threats into the future.
“Conservation groups, speleologists, and scientists around Australia are committed to ensuring the natural values of Cliefden Caves and the Belubula River Valley are not degraded in any way into the future,” he said.
Graham Quint, director of advocacy for the NSW division of the National Trust welcomed the announcement saying: “It's just a really silly area to build a dam”.
“No one knows where the limestone ends up – so it's probably not a good place to put [one],” he said.
The Coalition government has been examining options for a dam in the area, with one proposed for the Cranky Rock area over the Belubula River nearby.
A spokesman for WaterNSW said it was “currently evaluating potential solutions aimed at improving water security in that region.
“The environment and the significance of the caves have always been important considerations in any analysis of potential water security infrastructure options,” he said.
Ms Upton said fossils in the caves were recognised internationally.
“It's great to be able to acknowledge the caves' significance,” she said.
According to the government, the network includes more than 100 recorded caves, almost as many karst features, a rare thermal spring, and is home to 15 confirmed species of microbats.
"The fossils include the world's oldest known in-situ brachiopod shell beds, some of the earliest-known rugose corals in the geological record.