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Biodiversity: Forest Service adopting a regional policy to address bat-killing fungal disease

Wildlife conservation advocates call for more stringent measures

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The Forest Service hopes that a tiered, adaptive-management approach will help prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome in the Rocky Mountain region.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service is adopting a regional policy aimed at managing caves in the face of White-Nose Syndrome, a bat-killing disease that is sweeping across the country.

The fungal infection has wiped out millions of bats in the Northeast, spreading southward, and west as far as Oklahoma, but hasn’t yet reached the Rocky Mountains, but the Forest Service recognizes the threat:

“If (the disease) is introduced to cave or (abondoned mine) habitats anywhere in the five states in Region 2, it will likely spread rapidly via bat-to-bat transmission and could quickly contaminate cave and (abandoned mine) habitats,” the agency concluded in the study. Continue reading

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Forest Service extends cave closures to protect bats

The big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) commonly lives in man-made structures but migrates to higher elevations in winter to hibernate. It eats wasps, beetles, leafhoppers and other agricultural pests. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

Scientists still grappling with spread of deadly white nose syndrome

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Caves and abandoned mines on national forest lands in the Rocky Mountain region will be closed for another year as biologists try to pinpoint risks to bat populations.

The Forest Service closed access to the caves a year ago as a preventive measure to stop the potential spread of white nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has killed at least 1 million bats in the eastern part of the country since it was detected in New York 2006.

Some signs of the disease have been spotted as far west as Missouri and Oklahoma. Wildlife biologists don’t have a good understanding of how bats migrate, and some conservation biologists have suggested that  blanket precautionary closures could prevent the spread of the fungus. Continue reading

Colorado: Judge OKs cave visits during spelunkers convention despite concerns about deadly bat disease

Biologists document decade-long bat use in Anvil Points Claystone Cave

Are bats at risk in Colorado? PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A federal judge last last week rejected a lawsuit aimed at protecting Colorado bats from an invasive fungal disease that is wiping out bat populations in the eastern half of the country.

The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, challenged a BLM permit issued for group visits to several caves in northwestern Colorado during the annual National Speleological Society convention, under way in Glenwood Springs this week. Continue reading

Colorado: Legal battle over bat caves brewing

Conservation group files lawsuit challenging BLM permits to visit caves

A battle over protecting bats and bats caves is brewing in Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — State and federal resource managers in Colorado have been at odds over a decision to permit the National Speleological Society to visit several caves later this month when the caving group holds its annual convention in Glenwood Springs. A national conservation group, the Center for Biological Diversity, is now challenging the permit in federal court.

Despite warnings from the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the federal Bureau of Land Management last month issued a permit for  several caves on BLM land in the northwestern part of the state.

According to the BLM, the caves are not used extensively by bats. but state biologists said previously there has been some documented use of the caves by Townsend’s big-eared bats, a species of special concern in Colorado. Click here to read about state bat conservation efforts. The CDOW white-nose syndrome response plan can also be seen here.

The cavers — a conscientious group — have agreed to strict conditions to try and protect bat populations from the spread of white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease that’s wiping out bats in the eastern part of the U.S. Bats play a key ecosystem role by pollinating many commercial crops and wild plants, and by keeping insect populations in check. Read this story to learn more. Continue reading

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