Realizing the Benefits of Bats, Educating for Conservation
Bat Conservation and Mining Steering Committee, OSMRE
Kimery Vories, Steering Committee Chair, OSMRE
Recognizing the significant and complex relationship between bats and mining, the Bat Conservation and Mining Steering Committee was convened as a cooperative effort between the Office of Surface Mining, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bat Conservation International to protect the 45 species of bats indigenous to the continental United States. Many of these remaining bat populations roost in mines, and more than half of these populations are listed as endangered or species of concern. Closure or other alteration of old mines without a biological assessment can, in single events, eliminate some of America’s large remaining bat populations. Bats play a key ecological role as primary predators of night-flying insects, insects that cost American farmers and foresters billions annually.
The members of the Bat Conservation and Mining Steering Committee realized a critical need to communicate not only the plight of the bats and their role in ecosystems and rural economies, but to collect and document techniques to make mine closures bat-friendly. The Committee hosted two national forums on bat conservation and mining, and developed an international website for education. Now, there are 15 agencies and organizations working together to save bats and their habitats. A national Bat Gate Monitoring Database is being investigated in collaboration with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining. Based on many years of research and experimentation, the Steering Committee’s manual on mine gate design now serves as a guide for land managers internationally on how best to protect important caves and underground mines.