RBC I National forests and grasslands in Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming have renewed forest orders restricting cave access as part of the Rocky Mountain Region’s white-nose syndrome management strategy.
The purpose of the orders is to reduce the likelihood of the inadvertent spread of the fungus that causes the bat disease known as the white-nose syndrome and to minimize disturbance to hibernating bats. The orders are in effect from Aug. 1 through July 31, 2019.
Certain caves on the Bighorn, Black Hills, Shoshone, and White River National Forests are closed during the winter bat hibernation period. Some caves are closed year-round on the Black Hills and White River.
Caves are otherwise open to the public with certain requirements for entry: cavers must register online to access caves, gear from states where WNS is known or suspected is prohibited and cavers must decontaminate gear before and after entering caves. Individuals holding a valid special use permit authorizing cave entry are not subject to these restrictions.
WNS is an emergent disease of hibernating bats that has spread rapidly since its discovery in the northeastern United States during the winter of 2006 and 2007. The disease is currently known to occur or suspected to occur in 29 states and five Canadian provinces, and millions of bats have died since its discovery.
In March 2016, WNS was discovered in Washington. The disease is caused by Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), a fungus that thrives in cold, moist environments and infects the skin of the muzzle, ears and wings of hibernating bats.
Twenty-two bat species are known to occur or expected to occur in the Rocky Mountain Region. To date, neither the disease nor the fungus has been confirmed in any of the Rocky Mountain Region states.
On Aug. 1, 2013, the Rocky Mountain Region implemented an adaptive management strategy for white-nose syndrome after completing an Environmental Assessment (EA) that compared three management alternatives to reduce the potential for human introduction, spread and impacts of Pd and WNS. The adaptive management alternative was selected, which includes different management approaches, “tiers.” Each management tier includes a combination of required and optional management actions designed to provide flexibility to meet local management needs.
For more information, please visit: www.fs.usda.gov/detail/ r2/home/?cid=stelprdb5319926.