Bats, Caves, White-Nose Syndrome, and the CBD

28 Apr

I read this week, that the USFWS didn’t make the law to have the bats have critical endangered habitat, and I thought, I bet that will piss people off, but on the other hand, I know a bit about the caves and the bats and the humans, and I wondered whether maybe they just did that because they didn’t want to publicize just where this habitat is.

When whitenose started coming down, there started up some dissent between the Center for Biological Diversity people and the cavers, as the cavers, at least some of them, thought they could help volunteer to police caves, and the CBD people thought the caves should be banned for human access. The bats are affected when they are hibernating, because the fungus wakes them up too soon before spring and they come out and starve. So we do not want humans going into the bat hibernacula, no we do not. And some cavers could not care less about bats, they just want to add to their cave bucket list.

Problem is, bats are really good at finding caves. Humans vary. And we don’t have wings. So it’s hard to make sure a protected cave is really protected, because a lot of them are really hard to get to, without wings. And there is not enough money to hire humans to go way out there to the caves, and watch. And besides, we don’t know where they all are, the caves.

Humans who are interested in caves may put a lot of energy into finding them. Maps of cave locations may be closely guarded. Humans sometimes die without giving them up.

Caves get found by humans, caves get lost by humans. And it’s not clear that bats don’t do as good a job of spreading this fungus as humans do. And humans do sometimes vandalize caves they can locate, they even at times devote a lot of energy to trying to break into gated caves, to the point where cave gate design may include weak links, because it’s cheaper to replace the weak link than to replace a more damaged gate.

I learned that volunteering for a cave management guy here about ten years back, head cave guy for the whole Bureau of Land Management. He’s stationed at the local office.

I was sorting out his files for him so they could again fit in the three file cabinets in his cubicle. I had a tiny bit of the end of his desk to work on. As this was a volunteer gig, I had time to read.

Awhile later, I read online about how caves where public access is denied, do get vandalized, and how volunteer people who care about caves and wildlife and take protection seriously, aren’t around to notice, because they are told not to come around.

Today I read this. I don’t mean to trash CBD, but I’ve been thinking all along that their thinking on this has problems.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2016/04/26/agency-caves-to-industry-on-bat-protection-greens-say.htm

WASHINGTON (CN) — A critical habitat designation for northern long-eared bats is “not prudent,” Fish and Wildlife says, but environmentalists claim industry pressure is the reason protections were denied.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it has declined to designate critical habitat for the bats because publishing hibernation locations would cause vandalism and disturbance at the sites and “hasten the spread of white-nose syndrome,” a devastating fungus disease that has caused the bats’ population to decline by up to 99 percent in the Northeast. Of all the bat species in the U.S., the northern long-eared has been the species most affected by the disease. The disease get its name from the white patches noted on the muzzles and wings of the bats.
“While critical habitat has a fundamental role to play in recovering many of our nation’s most imperiled species, in the case of the northern long-eared bat, whose habitat is not a limiting factor in its survival, designating it could do more harm than good,” Tom Melius, the Service’s Midwest Regional Director, said. “Today’s finding will ensure we don’t put the bat at greater risk by drawing people to its hibernation sites. It also enables the Service and our partners to focus our efforts where they clearly can do the most good, finding a solution to the primary threat of white-nose syndrome.”

“According to the CBD, scientific research demonstrates that species with critical habitat are twice as likely to recover as species without designated habitat, but the agency has used the “not prudent” and other loopholes to avoid giving critical habitat to many species. The ESA requires the Service to designate critical habitat for listed species unless it is not prudent to do so, is not within U.S. jurisdiction or is not determinable.
“If you don’t protect the places endangered species live, it becomes that much harder to save them. This is yet another instance where the Fish and Wildlife Service has gone out of its way to appease special interests rather than protecting our most vulnerable animals,” Tanya Sanerib, a CBD attorney, said. “To put it simply, the Fish and Wildlife Service isn’t protecting habitat for the bat because it would be inconvenient for them to stand up to industry, not because it wouldn’t benefit the bat.”

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