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CENTER for BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY Because life is good

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Cave Closures

White-nose syndrome spreads from bat to bat, but it’s also believed to spread when people move from cave to cave with contaminated gear.

Research has demonstrated that the fungal pathogen can live in cave soils and can be transported on clothing and gear into new sites. Strong evidence points to the probability that the fungus was originally transported by people to North America from Europe — where the fungus has been identified on bats in 12 countries but does not negatively affect them.

That’s why in January 2010, the Center filed an emergency petition seeking to prohibit all-but-essential human travel in caves and abandoned mines on federal lands in the lower 48 states.

A Center analysis in early 2011 found that while federal public lands in the eastern United States are now largely off-limits to nonessential, unauthorized cave and mine access, the same is not true for the West. Other than national parks and the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. Forest Service, most bat caves and mines on western public lands remain open and vulnerable to the spread of white-nose.

In particular, Bureau of Land Management staff indicated the agency has no plans to enact blanket closures and no timeline for implementing even partial closures across most of the West.


Photo courtesy of New York Department of Environmental Conservation