Target: U.S. Forest Service
Goal: Keep caves in the Rocky Mountains off-limits to spelunkers, who can infect bats with a deadly fungus
The bats of the United States are dying. Besides overpopulation and noise pollution, their rapid decrease is due to white-nose syndrome, a fungus that infects the animals’ muzzles and wings. Scientists have linked white-nose syndrome to a fungus that originated in the caves of Europe. Over the past few decades, the fungus has been transferred to the United States on the boots of spelunkers that once explored overseas. The spelunkers unknowingly brought the infection to American caves, and now the bat population is declining.
Thankfully, the bats living in the Rocky Mountains have yet to be affected. This is because the U.S. Forest Service, in an attempt to protect the animals, closed the cave systems in the mountains a few years ago. The closure prevents any type of spelunking in any caves, which has allowed the bats to remain relatively healthy.
However, outdoor adventure companies have recently been pressuring the Service to re-open the caves for exploration, claiming people have the right to witness all of the Rockies’s natural beauty. In response, the Service granted spelunking permits to two companies this summer, and is currently deciding whether to re-open many more caves to the general public.
The satisfaction of cave explorers and outdoor adventure companies should not take precedent over the health of the animals living in the Rockies. While visitors may be disappointed that they can’t explore the mountains, they must understand that the caves are closed for a reason. It is estimated that since 2006, 7 million bats have died in the eastern United States due to “white nose.” Human cave exploration is directly responsible for this decrease in population. The bats of the Rockies have remained safe due to cave closures. If the caves are re-opened, thousands of people will tread through the bats’ habitat, potentially tracking the white-nose fungus with them. Tell the U.S. Forest Service to protect bats and keep the Rocky Mountain caves closed.
Dear U.S. Forest Service,
As you are well aware, the bats of the United States are dying due to an ailment called white-nose syndrome.” As you are also aware, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome arrived in this country on the shoes of spelunkers who had vacationed in Europe. The presence of humans in American caves is causing the rapid decline of numerous species of bats.
Thankfully, the bats living in the Rocky Mountains have yet to be affected by white-nose syndrome because you closed the cave systems in an attempt to protect the animals. The closure has allowed the bats to remain relatively healthy, and for this you should be commended.
However, I must object to the fact that you are now considering re-opening the Rocky Mountain cave systems to the public. The satisfaction of cave explorers and outdoor adventure companies should not take precedents over the health of the animals living in the Rockies. While visitors may be disappointed that they can’t explore, they must understand that the caves are closed for a reason. If they are re-opened, thousands of people will tread through the bats’ habitat, potentially tracking the white-nose fungus with them.
Please refrain from re-opening the Rocky Mountain cave systems. The fate of America’s bats is at stake. Thank you.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Rich Sajdak via Flickr