Rocky Mountain Region Denies Appeal: Caves to Reopen

Little Brown Bat with White-Nose Syndrome.

Little Brown Bat with White-Nose Syndrome. Photo by 9brandon/flickr

The Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service denied an appeal of their new cave access policy earlier this week, paving the way to reopen many of the regions caves which have been closed for the last three years due to the threat of white-nose syndrome.

Despite accusations by the Center for Biological Diversity that the new approach will increase the risk of spreading the Geomyces destructans fungus, the cause of white-nose syndrome, decision makers in each of the regions administrative units have unanimously opted for a new adaptive management approach to replace the emergency closure order when it expires on August 1st, 2013.

The region, which covers five states, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and most of Wyoming and South Dakota, released its environmental assessment on the management of caves and mines for white-nose syndrome detailing the proposed adaptive management approach earlier this year.

Developed with the help of public input, the new adaptive management approach is divided into three tiers.

The first tier, which applies when Geomyces Destructans or white-nose syndrome has not been found within 250 miles (400 kilometers), allows access to caves, with winter closures of known hibernacula. It also requires cavers to use an online registration system for cave access and prohibits use of clothing gear from infected states and Canadian provinces.

The second tier comes into effect when the fungus has been confirmed within 250 miles (400 kilometers). It closes all caves, but allows for some specifically targeted caves to be opened.

Finally, the third tier is a special case that allows for caves to potentially be open when Geomyces destructans or white-nose syndrome is present, but only if the impacts are found to be minimal.

Beyond that, most of the administrative regions have opted for extra precautions such as mandatory decontamination after every cave visit.

In the mean time, the current closure order, with exemptions for National Speleological Society and Cave Research Foundation members, remains in effect.

For more information visit the Rocky Mountain Region White-Nose Syndrome Environmental Analysis page.

Forest Service Will Reopen Caves, Increase Risk That Deadly Bat Epidemic Will Spread to Rocky Mountains, U.S. West [Center for Biological Diversity]

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Comments (1)

  1. Jasmine
    July 9, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Close the caves down until the disease is in control.. We have killed and destroyed enough of eco system. Does anybody really have to be that selfish that they must take a look at the cave to take some pictures they will never take a look at again with the danger of killing the entire bat population? I say not.

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