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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
VENTURA-Partners Help Preserve Bat Habitat Near Death Valley
Region 8, February 15, 2007

The Service’s Private Stewardship Grant Program provided funding to Bat Conservation International (BCI) to install three bat gates in Lower Biddy Mine, which is owned and managed by Rio Tinto Minerals, near Death Valley National Park in Inyo County, California.  Staff from the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program administered the cooperative agreement, completed all necessary regulatory compliance for the project, and coordinated with BCI and U.S. Borax on their efforts to install the bat gates.  The project will preserve habitat for the 16 species of bats in the Death Valley area, including Townsend's big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii) a California Department of Fish and Game species of special concern.

California's Death Valley, which has experienced over 140 years of boom and bust mining, is littered with abandoned gold, silver, and borax mines.  US Borax's California operations once supplied the Country with borax for soap and detergents, fertilizers, ceramics, cosmetics, and building materials.  These mines are now prime bat habitats in the Death Valley region.  In 2000, US Borax (now Rio Tinto Minerals) joined BCI’s efforts to successfully design and install bat-compatible gates at their abandoned mines including Lower Biddy Mine Complex. 

The Lower Biddy Mine complex occurs near Furnace Creek wash between the Black Mountains and the Funeral Mountains and within the Amargosa River Watershed.  The mine has several levels, many thousands of feet of passages, and cavernous chambers.  The mine’s openings were closed from 1927-2001, and shortly after re-opening the lower entrance, a Townsend's big-eared bat was found roosting near the entrance.  A biological survey of the mine’s interior workings yielded numerous potential habitat sites.  Guano from a small maternity colony of Townsend's big-eared bats was found in a tunnel above the uppermost Lower Biddy mine workings.

The project constructed and installed bat-compatible gates in three tunnel openings.  The installed gates will maintain critical airflow for bats between the upper and lower entrances.  BCI in partnership with Rio Tinto Minerals will continue to monitor post-gate bat use and has installed dataloggers to monitor airflow and internal temperatures and humidity.

The project is an initial step towards the development a larger regional and strategic effort to conserve underground habitat for bat species in the region while also striving to improve human safety by limiting access to abandoned mines in the Death Valley region.  Staff from the California Department of Conservation, National Parks Service, BCI, and Rio Tinto Minerals met in spring 2006 to begin strategizing on bat conservation at a regional scale.  The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program will continue to assist BCI staff and private landowners when possible as conservation efforts move forward in the region.

For more information, contact:

 

Mary Root, Conservation Partnerships          Michael Rauschkolb

Program Coordinator                                    Project Manager, Land

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service                       Rio Tinto Minerals     

Ventura Field Office                                      Englewood, Colorado

805/ 644-1766 ext 233                                 303/ 713-5078

mary_root@fws.gov                                      Mike.Rauschkolb@borax.com

 

Dave Waldien, Ph.D.

Co-Director of Programs

Conservation Scientist

Bat Conservation International

Austin, Texas

512/ 327-9721

dwaldien@batcon.org

 

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov