A Summary of Legislation and Organizations
Involved in the Preservation of Caves and Bats
The establishment of
President Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Act on
The National Park Services Act was enacted in 1916 (Public Law 64 235) and established the National Park Service followed by the creation of the Fish & Wildlife Service. Together these two organizations administer over 149 public laws with their associated rules, regulations and guidelines, and are under the domain of the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce. (http://www.fws.gov/laws/digest/reslaws/laws.html)
Today, there are 374 areas within the National Park System alone, covering more than 80 million acres in every state except Delaware, and including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (http://www.nps.gov/parklists/byname.htm) The Park Service exists to conserve these lands and the wildlife that lives within - preserving them for future generations, while still providing for human enjoyment of these special places. The diverse habitats of our parklands, at least 55 of which have significant cave and karst features, abound with wildlife including bat populations making their homes in caves, historic abandoned mines, rock crevices, trees, and even in old park buildings.
Federal guidelines form the basis for management of these natural and historical resources, but each park also creates its own plan to address the management of its unique features and wildlife. Most park visitors view these lands as places where all resources are treasured and protected, but this has, unfortunately, not always been the case, especially for bats and their habitats.
The importance of caves to surrounding ecosystems to say nothing of the importance of bats - was little understood by early park naturalists. In the past, many park managers perceived caves more as potential hazards to visitors than as valuable resources. The exception was if a cave had enough notable features to warrant being developed for tourism. When fences around non-commercial caves and mine openings didn't work as a safety measure to keep visitors out, parks often resorted to blocking the entrance by other means resulting in some major bat populations having been lost on national parklands.
Half of the National Parks were once National Monuments established by presidential proclamation rather than by an Act of Congress. The intent of the national monument enabling act, The National Antiquities Act (Public Law 59 - 509), was to allow the president to act quickly in saving archaeological sites on public lands before they could be plundered. The Act as written, however, applied to any area of historic or scientific interest, including caves.
Speleologists should have a working knowledge of the National Park Services Act of 1916, Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, the National Environmental Protection Act of 1969, the Lechuguilla Cave Protection Act of 1993 and the National Cave and Karst Research Institute Act of 1998 and the proposed Puerto Rico Land and Water Conservation Act of 2000. These Acts specifically protect caves on Federal Lands for perpetual use, enjoyment and benefit of all people. (See Appendix 1 for details of these laws)
The NPS rules and regulations are found in U.S. Code Title 16, Chapter
1, National Parks,
The implementing rules are found in Part 37, Subtitle A, Title 43 and are listed in Appendix 1. These rules establish criteria to be considered in the identification of significant caves. They also integrate cave management into existing planning and management processes and protect cave resource information to prevent disturbance of significant caves and vandalism. Primary impact lies with lands administered by the Bureaus of Indian Affairs, of Land Management, and Reclamation, as well as the National Park and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
Some key aspects of the significant cave determination process include provisions that:
Long before the enactment of The Endangered Species Act, 1973
(Public Law 93 205)(
Expanding upon the preceding Endangered
Species Preservation Act of 1966, the
A species can be listed as threatened or endangered for one or more of the following reasons: current or threatened destruction, modification, or reduction of habitat or range; overuse for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; disease or predation; ineffective protection regulations; and other natural forces or human activities affecting chances for survival. Once a listing is confirmed, critical habitat must also be designated. Critical habitat is defined as the geographic area that is essential to, or requires special protection for, the conservation of a species.
If the Secretary of the Interior finds it is not possible to designate habitat at the time of listing, it must be determined within one year. The economic as well as other relevant impacts are taken into consideration when specifying critical habitat. The Act also requires the Secretary of the Interior to develop and implement recovery plans for listed species. Recovery teams formulate recovery criteria and site-specific management plans.
Table 1 lists the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Endangered and Threatened Species of Bats by State. (http://endangered.fws.gov/mammals1.html)
The National Environmental Policy Act, 1969 (Public Law 91 184) (NEPA) is a landmark legislation that requires all Federal Government agencies that interpret and administer United States policies, regulations, and public laws to follow nine rules. The rules require agencies to use a systematic, interdisciplinary approach to environmental decision-making; to develop procedures for assigning values to environmental concerns, which can be directly compared to economic and technical concerns; and to provide detailed reports regarding any proposed projects that may significantly affect the quality of the environment (commonly called Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)). The EIS for a proposed project must include the expected environmental impact, any unavoidable negative impact, possible alternatives to the project, and an analysis of short-term versus long-term benefits.
The remaining NEPA rules require Federal agencies to monitor and evaluate environmental impact statements prepared by state agencies to: help create programs designed to maximize international environmental cooperation; serve as an information resource on a variety of environmental topics; research alternatives to unresolved environmental conflicts; use appropriate ecological information in planning and development; and, assist the Council on Environmental Quality.
The Lechuguilla Cave Protection Act of 1993 (Public Law 103 169) states that Congress found that Lechuguilla Cave and adjacent public lands have internationally significant scientific, environmental and other values, and should be retained in public ownership and protected against adverse effects of mineral exploration and development, as well as other activities presenting threats to the areas. The cave has multiple layers of protection under the Wilderness Act of 1978 (Public Law 95 237) and the National Park Services Act of 1916, as well as the Federal Cave Resources Act and the Lechuguilla Cave Protection Act. (Huppert, 1995)
Another important act is the National Cave and Karst Research Institute Act of 1998 (Public. Law. 105-325) whose purpose is to:
(1) further the science of speleology;
(2) centralize and standardize speleological information;
(3) foster interdisciplinary cooperation in cave and karst research programs;
(4) promote public education;
(5) promote national and international cooperation in protecting the environment for the benefit of cave and karst landforms; and
(6) promote and develop environmentally sound and sustainable resource management practices.
The Federal Cave Resources Protection Act (FCRPA) and the Endangered
Species Act (
There are 27 states with cave protection laws and
Penalties for vandalism, removing any materials found in caves, killing or removing plant and animal life, breaking or tampering with doors or gates are classified in every state as a misdemeanor ranging from Class A/Class 1 to a Class E/Class 5. The penalty is either criminal or civil and ranges from $50 to $2,000 and/or up to one-year imprisonment. A subsequent violation either increases the penalty or becomes a criminal felony.
Table 2 lists States with Cave Protection Laws and the Penalty for
Violations. Appendix 2 summarizes the statutes in each state. The italic at the
end of the text is from the State Criminal Code regarding the definition of
misdemeanor. The laws have been tested and a recent example can be found in A
Summary of the Langhorn Cave Vandalism Case found in
the April 1999, issue of the
Each state has some form of endangered species protection act that includes species found on their own state's list as well as on the federal list. It is beyond the scope of this paper to list all the different state laws and state threatened and endangered species. An excellent web site for an introduction to state wildlife laws is found at (http://ipl.unm.edu/cwl/statbook/intro.html).
There are many organizations dedicated to the preservation and management of bats and caves.
The National Speleological Society (
The National Speleological Society's
Policy for Cave Conservation (from the
Accordingly, the intention of the Society is to work for the preservation of caves with a realistic policy supported by effective programs for: the encouragement of self-discipline among cavers; education and research concerning the causes and prevention of cave damage; and special projects, including cooperation with other groups similarly dedicated to the conservation of natural areas. Specifically:
Scientific collection should be professional, selective and minimal. The collecting of mineral or biological material for display purposes, including previously broken or dead specimens, is never justified as it encourages others to collect and destroys the integrity of the cave.
Where there is reason to believe that
publication of cave locations will lead to vandalism before adequate protection
can be established, the
It is the duty of every
There are Memorandums of Understanding
An important provision of the Federal
Cave Resources Protection Act mandates an inventory of all significant
federally owned caves, many of which have not been fully explored and thus
could be threatened with harm from surface activities. Participation by the
The American Cave Conservation
Association (ACCA) is a nonprofit organization formed in 1977 for the
purpose of protecting caves and karst lands. ACCA is
committed to developing public education programs and professional services
that promote land use planning and proper stewardship of underground natural
resources. In 1986, ACCA moved its headquarters from
ACCA has designed more than 100 cave
gates for protection of endangered species and archaeological sites. Training
seminars have taught hundreds of land managers how to effectively take care of
caves. For nearly two decades, ACCA has worked in partnership with agencies and
organizations such as the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nature Conservancy and the
Bat Conservation International's (BCI) mission is to protect bats and restore their habitats worldwide. BCI is committed to:
-educating people to understand and value bats;
-protecting critical bat habitats and encouraging others to join in conservation efforts;
-advancing scientific knowledge, through research, of bats, their conservation needs, and the ecosystems that rely on them;
-relying on non-confrontational approaches to facilitate win-win solutions that benefit both bats and people.
BCI's philosophy is that there must be a balance between the needs of wildlife and the needs of humans. Increasing populations, poverty, and agricultural practices must be considered in meeting the organization's goals. Safeguarding the future of bats and their habitats, BCI helps to ensure the preservation of our planets biodiversity, thus creating a healthier environment for both wildlife and people.
The major areas of influence in furthering this philosophy are in the
following programs: The North American Bat Conservation Partnership with
The Nature Conservancy,
A key objective of Nature Conservancy
programs is to integrate economic growth with environmental protection. The
Conservancy launched the Natural Heritage Program and Conservation Data Center Network
(the Heritage Network), a system that has resulted in the world's most
comprehensive inventory of rare species and ecosystems. The network consists of
82 data centers across the
The Karst Waters Institute (KWI)is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit institution whose mission is to improve the fundamental understanding of karst water systems through sound scientific research and the education of professionals and the public. The institute is governed by a Board of Directors and does not have or issue memberships. Institute activities include the initiation, coordination, and conduct of research, the sponsorship of conferences and workshops, and occasional publication of scientific works. KWI supports these activities by acting as a coordinating agency for funding and personnel, but does not supply direct funding or grants to individual researchers.
As one way of increasing public awareness of karst and cave protection, the Institute publishes a list of the Top 10 endangered karst environments in the world. The third annual list is now available.(http://www.karstwaters.org)
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has organizations in nearly 40 countries. WWF is the largest private organization working worldwide to protect endangered wildlife and its habitat. Since its formation in 1961, WWF has supported 2,068 projects in 116 countries and has spent over $62 million on conservation efforts. The organization is committed to protecting natural areas and wild populations of plants and animals, including endangered species; supporting sustainable approaches to the use of renewable natural resources; promoting more efficient use of resources and energy; and working for the maximum reduction of pollution. (http://www.wwf.org)
Each year the IUCN, the world's largest independent conservation organization, updates its Red Data Book, which lists worldwide plant and animal species known to be endangered, vulnerable or rare. Out of approximately 986 species of bats in the world (Nowak, 1994), the 1996 Red Data Book places 499 bat species in these one of three categories 50.6 % of the total bat population.
How does the IUCN/World Conservation
Union categorize animals The term threatened is used to describe animals
protected by the IUCN/World Conservation Union, and divides them into
categories, which are listed in the 1996 Red Book. Table 3 lists by categories
bat families that are on the Red Book list and Table 4 breaks out this list for
those bat families found in the
Conservation biologists recently have suggested that constructing these red lists has been a major tactical error. (Diamond, 1988) The mere existence of such lists can lead to the assumption that if a species is not listed, it is not in jeopardy. A great many species not on any threatened or endangered list should be, but we do not know enough about them. A major problem is that to be included, the extent and rate of decline must be documented. However, in many cases, past populations have not been studied, and this data is often not available. To correct this problem, it has been suggested rather than putting together red lists, we should construct "green lists." Green lists would index species known to be secure. Thus, the burden of proof would be shifted to those who maintain all is well with a species.
The text below gives summary definitions of the categories (number of bats in each category). (Appendix 4 details each category)
A. EXTINCT (EX)-(13)
B. EXTINCT IN THE WILD (EW)-(0)
C. CRITICALLY ENDANGERED (CR)-(26)
D. ENDANGERED (EN)-(32)
E. VULNERABLE (VU)-(173)
F. LOWER RISK (LR)-(212)
1. Conservation Dependent (cd)-(2)
2. Near Threatened (nt)-(210)
3. Least Concern (lc) (0)
H. NOT EVALUATED (NE)-(0)
As part of the Endangered Species Act,
Congress directed the Department of the Interior to convene an international
convention to conserve endangered species. The Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an
international assembly convened in 1973 in Washington, D.C. and the resulting
treaty became effective on
CITES categorizes plants and animals in one of three Appendices.
a. Appendix I include species identified as currently endangered, or in danger of extinction throughout all, or a significant portion of, its range. Permits are issued for activities with these species only under exceptional circumstances. All activity requires a permit from the importing country and a permit from the exporting country.
b. Appendix II includes species identified as threatened, or likely to become endangered if trade isn't regulated. International trade is permitted only with proper documentation issued by the government of the exporting country.
Table 6 lists the bats (by Family) that are listed in the CITES Appendixes. A "D" on the table means the species has been deleted from the list. There are currently 67 bats on the list and 10 bats have been deleted.
Let's start with the proposition that we want to save as many endangered bats and caves as possible. The question is, how We first need to clearly understand the basic problem--that is, why are they endangered Next we must look at how well efforts to save endangered species have worked to date. If they haven't worked, we need to understand why not. Finally, we must look at other fields to see what tools we can apply that may be more successful.
There are several ways of looking at a species decline. The standard ecological view blames disappearing species on habitat loss. But the question still remains, why is there habitat loss
With our ignorance as a perspective, consider some of what we do know about the status of bats particularly, North American bats. Among the 45 species, cave roosting sites are essential for 24 of them, and occasionally some of the remaining 21. Nineteen of the 24 utilize caves year-round, both for reproduction and as winter roosts. The other five rely on caves only for hibernation, and roost elsewhere during the reproductive season. (Barbour, 1969)
Bats have rates of population growth far lower than those of other small mammals. Many females do not begin reproducing until their second year, and most species give birth to only a single pup annually. Bats typically have long life spans (10 to more than 30 years). Consequently, their populations are built up over a long span of time, thus reducing the rate and probability of recovery from severe losses.
Bats have other characteristics that
contribute to their vulnerability. One of the most significant is they roost in
large aggregations, concentrated into a few roost sites. Mexican free-tailed
bats (Tadarida brasiliensis)
are an excellent example. Single-cave roosts of these bats can contain tens of
millions, therefore the loss of even one such roost would impact a significant
portion of the species, hence the protection of
Wherever bats concentrate they are vulnerable to a variety of human-caused disturbances. At least three endangered species (Indiana, Gray and Sanborn's long-nosed bats) have abandoned traditional roost sites because of cave disturbance or expansion of urbanization. (Humphrey, 1978; Wilson, 1985; Tuttle, 1979) Others lose their caves entirely during quarrying operations and vandalism. In the temperate zone, bats typically encountered by cave explorers are either hibernating or rearing young. Disturbances as seemingly trivial as merely entering a roost area or shining a light can result in decreased chances for survival, outright death, or abandonment of the roost site.
Problems caused by disturbing hibernating bats also relate to energy requirements. During winter, bats in hibernation go for long periods without eating, allowing their body temperatures to drop often to near freezing. The energy reserves they accumulate prior to hibernation may be only slightly more than what is needed to survive the winter. Disturbance during hibernation can arouse bats prematurely, elevating body temperatures and utilizing stored energy. They may return to a state of torpor after a disturbance, but without sufficient energy to survive until spring.
General habitat alteration and
degradation can be important. For instance, two North American long-nosed bats
on the IUCN red list, are being disturbed in their cave roosts, as well as
threatened by declining food resources. The bats live in desert regions of the
Insecticides have had a negative impact
on many bat populations. (Stebbings, 1985) At least
two likely effects are direct poisoning and changes in the food resource base
of insectivorous bats. Direct poisoning by DDT (now banned for use in the
From what we know about the impact of human activities on bat populations, roost site disturbance, vandalism and habitat destruction have all had severe effects, particularly on cave-dwelling bats. People, who visit caves, both professionally and/or for recreation, need to be acutely aware of the potential damage they can do to the resident bats.
Bats select cave sites because they fulfill very specific requirements involving cave structure, air circulation patterns, temperature profiles and location relative to feeding sites. (Tuttle, 1979) Since these requirements are highly specific, suitable caves are relatively rare. For many bat populations, there may be only one or two acceptable roost sites, making these sites absolutely essential to their survival.
There are caves which should be designated as "red caves" with no or limited visitation. Designated "green caves" would not be important to bats or other endangered animals, and could be open to visitation any time. (McCracken, 1988) The major problem is determining which caves belong on the green versus the red list. One obvious red list criterion is whether the cave is a major hibernation and/or maternity roost of endangered bats or those of unknown status. Caves not currently occupied by bats, and for which there is no evidence of prior occupancy, could be green-listed. Judgments will have to be made, often with only limited information.
Listing caves for no access or
restricted use can be controversial. In the
The conservation of bats and caves in our national parklands has come a long way since the National Park Service was founded in 1916. Awareness of the importance of bats, not only to park ecosystems, but also to surrounding areas, is much greater today.
But while many parks have in recent years become more sensitive to protecting bats and caves, funding to erect special bat gates or to conduct surveys can be difficult to find and remains at the bottom of the priority list. While protective gates are a proven help in the recovery of bat populations, the process is very slow. Some bat colonies may be lost before they are protected.
However, our National Park System
continues to add new lands with significant bat habitat.
Unlike most other park mammals, bats know no boundaries. They may go home in the morning to a particular park, but can also provide tremendous ecological benefits far beyond their park's borders. Parks are increasingly living up to their mission of conserving habitat for all their wildlife, including bats. But park visitors too must change their attitudes and learn to respect the homes of these animals. With as much beauty as we have in our national parks, there is still plenty for visitors to explore rather than disturb the fragile habitat where bats live.
Through the local grottos, the
Today, sustainability is the keyword for environmentalists, or, for that
matter, anyone who cares about the future of the planet. We want
to preserve as much of the natural world as possible. The question long ago
stopped being about the existence of national parks, but about the ongoing
quality of these parks. Federal and state laws provide remedies and cures, land
acquisition and preservation methods. The
Footnote: This paper and all of the
appendices and tables can be found on the
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National Parks Locations: (http://www.nps.gov/parklists/byname.htm)
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Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species: (http://endangered.fws.gov/mammals1.html)
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The Nature Conservancy: (http://www.tnc.org)
The World Wildlife Fund: (http://www.wwf.org)
Bat Conservation International: (http://www.batcon.org)
Karst Waters Institute (http://www.karstwaters.org)
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources: (http://www.wcmc.org.uk/species/animals/table1.html)
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): (http://www.wcmc.org.uk/CITES/index.shtml)
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