Target: U.S. Forest Service
Goal: Repeal the decision to re-open all caves to the public, which were originally closed in order to protect bats at risk of fungal disease
White nose syndrome, a disease caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans, grows on bats while they hibernate during the winter. It’s named for the white fungal growth that appears on the muzzle, which causes bats to awaken from hibernation and leads to starvation. The disease has a 95% mortality rate in most species and appears to have somehow come from Europe, where bats are mostly immune to the fungus. The introduction of the disease into North America is presumed to be the result of European humans spreading the fungus. When the disease was discovered in Oklahoma in 2010, the Rocky Mountain region, Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota enacted a closure of all caves to the public in order to stop the spread and contain the disease for the safety of bats.
That closure has been maintained for the past three years while researchers look for a cure, but now the U.S. Forest Service is giving in to the demands of a few interested parties and re-opening the caves to the public. This action offsets years worth of conservation efforts and blatantly ignores the seven million bats already killed by the disease, which has spread to 22 American states and five Canadian provinces. Seven species have been affected by this, and the re-opening of the caves will only put many more at risk.
Such irresponsible policy-making affects not only animals, but humans as well. Bats reduce the amount of insects that thrive on farm crops and cost farmers millions of dollars each year. Now, three of these bat species may have to be placed on the Endangered Species list. Demand that the U.S. Forest Service stop the re-opening of these protected caves before it’s too late.
Dear U.S. Forest Service,
For the past three years, you have maintained a closure of caves in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and the Rocky Mountain region so that the spread of white nose syndrome would be contained and countless bats saved from the disease. But now, you have given in to the demands of those who have no concern for the livelihood of several important species and decided to lift this closure so that recreational activities can be enjoyed by the public.
This is a severe mistake. The disease has already killed over 7 million bats. The re-opening of the caves will not only cause the death of those already protected in the regions, but will allow the disease to spread to other regions and bat species. You must realize the importance of their safety, as bats serve a number of purposes which help humans as well, pest maintenance chief among them.
Please, do not squander three years worth of hard-earned conservation efforts. You are otherwise actively complicit in the placement of three species of bats on the Endangered Species list. Do not allow the public access to these caves, both for the good of many wildlife species and the humans who already depend on them.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: dizfunkshinal via Flickr