The first habitat protection agreement was signed in January 1999 by Richard and Mary Blake of Cape May County, New Jersey. They contacted the FWS after reading an article about the swamp pink in their local newspaper. Biologists from the New Jersey Field Office met with Mrs. Blake and discussed swamp pink protection strategies, including entering into a voluntary agreement with the FWS to protect and conserve the swamp pink site and a surrounding buffer area on their property. Additional private landowners have also expressed interest in protecting the swamp pink and are expected to sign habitat protection agreements in the near future. Each landowner will receive a framed certificate in recognition of the agreement.
Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis) Biologists in the FWS New England Field Office in Concord, New Hampshire, are conducting ESA-section 7 consultations with the U.S. Forest Service on 20 active timber sales in the Green Mountain National Forest for potential impacts on the endangered Indiana bat. The FWS is also assisting the Forest Service in developing a biological evaluation of forest activities on a programmatic level. In the White Mountains National Forest, all timber sales that have received FWS review resulted in findings that the sales are "not likely to adversely affect" the Indiana bat.
Indiana bats are considered to be at the northeastern edge of their range in New England. New Hampshire was not considered to be within the species' range until 1992, when a roosting bat was discovered during a summer research project in the White Mountain National Forest. New England has only three known active Indiana bat hibernacula (two in Vermont and one in Connecticut), and they harbor fewer than 10 individuals combined.
Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) The FWS Long Island Field Office has been building partnerships with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation; Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Suffolk County; Nassau County; The Nature Conservancy; and other groups to restore early successional beach habitat at sites used by the threatened piping plover and New York Statelisted least tern (Sterna antillarum). Due to years of shoreline management efforts, including beach "nourishment," dune construction, dune grass plantings, and fencing, early successional beach habitat is degraded or in short supply on Long Island. Plans are being developed to ensure post-restoration monitoring surveys.
The Long Island Office also has been working with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and The Nature Conservancy to educate stewards and land managers about piping plover biology, ecology, behavior, and management. Participants include Federal, State, county, and town representatives, as well as representatives from several not-for-profit organizations such as the National Audubon Society, Krusos Foundation, and Long Island Beach Buggy Association. Although this program was initiated by The Nature Conservancy several years ago, the FWS and the State have since assumed planning and coordination for the training program.
Virginia Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) In the fall of 1998, the FWS West Virginia Field Office assisted in the construction of state-of-the-art angle iron gates in the two entrances of the Sinnitt/Thorn Cave system in Pendleton County, West Virginia, to prevent the disturbance of endangered Virginia big-eared bats. With the assistance of the West Virginia Non-Game Wildlife and Natural Heritage Program and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the FWS prepared for the project by providing construction material (steel, acetylene, oxygen, welding rods, etc.). The project was accomplished through a cave gating workshop put on by the American Cave Conservation Association and sponsored by the FWS Asheville, North Carolina, Field Office, with funding from the FWS Southern Appalachian Ecosystem and the Chesapeake Bay/Susquehanna River Ecosystem offices. Participants in the project included the FWS (West Virginia Field Office, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and Asheville Field Office), West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, American Cave Conservation Association, U.S. Forest Service (Jefferson and George Washington National Forests and Mount St. Helens National Monument), National Speleological Society, National Park Service (Mammoth Cave National Park), West Virginia Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and Bat Conservation International.
The Sinnitt/Thorn Cave system is designated critical habitat for the endangered Virginia big-eared bat and supports both summer and winter colonies. The large summer maternity colony is considered critical to the species' survival. The old-style round bar gate at the Sinnitt entrance enabled the predation of bats leaving the small cave opening by local cats and (probably) raccoons. Bats also had difficulty negotiating the Thorn entrance gate, which requires the bats to enter and exit vertically. These problems should be corrected by the new gates.
With the help of the West Virginia Non-Game Wildlife and Natural Heritage Program, the West Virginia Field Office also delivered construction steel last fall to Schoolhouse Cave in West Virginia's Germany Valley. Schoolhouse Cave provides habitat for a large summer and winter colony of Virginia big-eared bats. The fence that controls human access to the cave had been vandalized several times in the past few years. Construction of a state-of-the-art angle iron gate at the cave entrance should preclude human disturbance of the bats and allow the population to flourish. Construction is scheduled for August 1999.
Reported by Lisa Arroyo of the FWS New Jersey Field Office, Linda Morse of the FWS New England Field Office, and Andy Moser of the Annapolis, Maryland, Field Office.