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First-ever conservation bank in the midwest will help bats

A northern long-eared bat from Chariton Hills Conservation Bank. Photo courtesy of Josiah Maine/Burns & McDonnell.

A northern long-eared bat from Chariton Hills Conservation Bank. Photo courtesy of Josiah Maine/Burns & McDonnell.

By Shauna Marquardt
Missouri Ecological Services Field Office

There’s a new tool in the toolbox to help bats in the midwest, thanks to the first-ever conservation bank for imperiled species in the midwest. TheĀ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the Chariton Hills Conservation Bank in northern Missouri in July 2018. The bank was established by environmental consulting firm Burns & McDonnell to benefit federally listed bats. Chariton Hills is the first conservation bank in the midwest, as well as the first in the nation for Indiana and northern long-eared bats.

While conservation banks vary in size, species and management, the idea behind them is relatively simple. Large tracts of habitat are permanently protected and managed for endangered, threatened, candidate and at risk wildlife. With our approval, developers working on projects within a specified service area around the bank can purchase credits to compensate for impacts to covered species. The number of credits a company purchases is directly related to the scale of impact to covered species and their habitat and the number of credits needed to offset those impacts as determined through consultation with our conservation team.

Here’s how the Chariton Hills bank works: When a company undertakes a project that will impact Indiana and/or northern long-eared bats in the bank’s service area, the company can purchase credits from the established bank to meet their mitigation need. In working with a conservation bank, a company can avoid taking on small-scale mitigation projects and the accompanying ecological, financial and real estate responsibilities. Bats benefit from strategic, upfront protection of habitat and project proponents benefit from the speed and certainty a bank provides as the mitigation tool.

Banks are developed cooperatively between our conservation team and a bank sponsor to ensure that target species benefit while maintaining economic viability. Discussions about developing a conservation bank for listed bat species began in 2016. Just over two years later, the final product was approved. With help from the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, Burns & McDonnell will permanently protect and manage two sites in northeastern Missouri totaling 1,300 acres of roosting and foraging habitat for maternity colonies of Indiana and northern long-eared bats. That’s a lot of habitat as most mitigation projects range from 100 to 200 acres in size. For project proponents working in the service area, essentially all of Missouri north of the Missouri River, the bank provides a streamlined path to achieve compensation for impacts.

Many bat species in North America face multiple threats, such as white-nose syndrome, habitat loss and impacts from wind turbines. Because even small impacts can have detrimental effects when they occur repeatedly, recovery efforts for Indiana and northern long-eared bats include protection of colonies and associated habitat, especially maternity colonies. Northern Missouri, southern Iowa and western Illinois support maternity colonies of Indiana bats that hibernate at Sodalis Nature Preserve in Hannibal, Missouri, the largest known hibernaculum for the species. This makes protecting habitat in these areas even more important. Conservation banks such as this one can play a key role in supporting recovery of listed species by protecting large areas of connected habitats critical for species health.

Rolling wooded hills makeup Chariton Hills Conservation Bank. Photo courtesy of G.Gardner/Burns & McDonnell.

Rolling wooded hills at Chariton Hills Conservation Bank. Photo courtesy of G.Gardner/Burns & McDonnell.

Last updated: June 8, 2020