Agencies, private groups rally for Colorado bats
DENVER, Colorado – Efforts by state and federal officials, volunteers and wildlife advocates have prompted the Interior Department to declare three abandoned uranium mines in Colorado as havens for bats.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a measure Wednesday to make development off-limits at the western Colorado mines for the next 20 years. The three mines are roosts where Townsend’s Big-eared bats give birth.
“You find very few maternity roosts for these species. The mines provide 50 to 60 percent of the maternity roosts in the state for the bats,” said Kirk Navo, a wildlife conservation biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
The Division of Wildlife has declared the bat a species of special concern in Colorado because its numbers have declined.
The bat’s ears are about a third of its total length, roughly 3 to 4 inches.
Navo said it took about two years of work by state and federal agencies and private groups to protect the mines. A recent increase in new uranium claims driven by rising prices stirred fears the bats might lose their shelters.
State wildlife employees proposed filing mining claims to protect the land. Navo said the Colorado chapter of the Wildlife Society paid to file the claims and the Colorado Bat Society agreed to hold the claims, buying time for state and federal officials to draft an agreement.
“It’s a good example that if people pull together and work on something, they can get it done despite all the bureaucracy,” Navo said.
The mines are on federal land near Grand Junction, Montrose and Dolores and cover a total of 23 acres.
“These three sites represent all known maternity roost sites for this species on BLM lands in Colorado,” said Dave Hunsaker, acting state director with the Bureau of Land Management.
The BLM and U.S. Forest Service work with state wildlife officials to protect bats that take up roost in abandoned mines. Navo heads the state Bats/Inactive Mines Project, which includes the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.
Instead of closing abandoned mines frequented by bats, the federal and state agencies cooperate to install gates that allow the bats freely fly in and out.