Thu July 7, 2011

Environmental Group Sues BLM Over Caving Permits

Attitudes about how best to protect Colorado bats from the spread of a deadly fungus is sparking debate and litigation. On Wednesday, the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management. The issue stems from permits the agency plans to issue to recreational cavers during a national convention later this month in Glenwood Springs.

“As a matter of personal caving ethics we think cavers should also make the choice at this time to refrain from going into caves to give bats the greatest chance of survival through this epidemic,” said Molly Matteson, a conservation advocate for the Center.

White Nose Syndrome has killed more than 1 million bats on the East Coast, and has yet to make it to the West. The disease is primarily spread from bat to bat, but humans have been connected to suspicious jumps in the condition from one state to another.

The BLM does not currently have restrictions on cave use in Colorado. That’s in contrast to the U.S. Forest Service, which has banned access in several western states including Colorado.

The BLM permits in question would be used the week of July 18. Matteson says she’s hoping for a speedy litigation process. The BLM declined to comment.