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New York DEC Protects Bat Hibernaculum in the Adirondacks

July 3, 2006

First Habitat Protection Project Funded Under the State Landowner Incentive Program

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced the first project funded from the State's Landowner Incentive Program (LIP). LIP is a new collaborative initiative between DEC and landowners to protect the habitat of at-risk species on private lands. The program is funded by a grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

During the week of June 12, DEC repaired gates to the entrance of Graphite Mine in the Adirondacks to protect one of the critical bat-wintering sites in the Northeast. This was the first of six Indiana Bat sites that will be gated by DEC, and the first LIP-funded activity for the State. From the late 1800s to 1920, this mine was the chief source of graphite for the country. The site is now the winter home, or "hibernaculum", of an estimated 180,000 bats, including approximately 200 endangered Indiana bats, small-footed bats, and thousands of little and large brown bats, Eastern pipistrelles and other species.

The privately-owned Graphite Mine had originally been gated by The Nature Conservancy and Bat Conservation International in 1997. Since then, several new holes had opened up, both as a result of erosion and due to illegal digging and trespass. With the landowner's permission, and with funding from the LIP, DEC performed the necessary repairs.

Bats are most vulnerable when they are hibernating. Disturbance, such as human intrusion, wakes up and stirs the sleeping bats, causing them to deplete their fat supplies at an accelerated rate and reducing the chances of the animals surviving through the winter. Gating the entrances to prevent trespass into hibernacula is one of the chief measures for survival of bat species. Additionally, the gates prevent human access to a dangerous and unstable mine, reducing the chances of a serious accident. The gates allow the bats to pass through and do not interfere with air circulation, but prevent unauthorized access.

The federally-funded LIP is restricted to projects that benefit species of greatest conservation need, as identified in the State's Wildlife Action Plan. In the future, LIP is expected to expand to protect dwindling grassland and habitat of the endangered bog turtle. Future LIP grants will address other important habitats and ecological communities of concern.


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