October 31, 2017

Protecting Critical Habitats For Bats

LITTLE ROCK — Through its ongoing work to conserve the best, and sometimes last, examples of the state’s natural landscape, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC) has recently acquired and protected more than 500 acres in northern Arkansas to directly benefit the habitats for both federally endangered and threatened species of bats.

Bats are Arkansas’s most endangered mammal, and they play an essential role in the natural environment: they eat thousands of insects every night and help pollinate flowers.

“Arkansans have long enjoyed the outdoor beauty of our state and appreciated those animals that also make this place their home,” said Darrell Bowman, ANHC director. “Bats are a part of our natural landscape and play a significant role in our ecosystem, especially in the management of insects and mosquitoes. It is with an eye toward protecting our state’s bat population to the benefit of future generations that ANHC has acquired these lands.”

In Independence County, ANHC added 400 acres to the Foushee Cave Natural Area, featuring deep-forested ravines along perennial streams that provide excellent foraging habitat for the federally endangered gray and Indiana bats and federally threatened northern long-eared bat. One of the most biologically important caves in Arkansas is located in the Foushee Cave Natural Area and is used by bats and other cave species.

In Marion County, the Slippery Hollow cave system is one of three known sites that support the eastern-most population of the federally endangered Ozark big-eared bat. It also harbors the northern long-eared bat, as well the gray bat. Located within the Slippery Hollow Natural Area, the Marble Falls Cave was the first confirmed site of northern long-eared bat fatalities due to white-nose syndrome in Arkansas.

White-nose syndrome is a disease named for the white fungus that appears on hibernating bats. Over the past decade, the disease has spread rapidly and has caused increased deaths – more than 5.7 million – of multiple bat species in eastern North America. In some locations, the entire bat population has died from white-nose syndrome.

ANHC is part of an extensive network, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), working cooperatively to investigate the source, spread and cause of bat deaths and develop management tools and strategies to minimize the impacts of the disease.

ANHC’s protection of an additional 101 acres at Slippery Hollow will help increase the survival rate of the bats during hibernation by securing additional foraging and transportation corridors.

“I am so proud of the leadership shown by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission in forging partnerships with other conservation organizations that work together to save these important species and habitats,” said Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

These lands were conserved, in part, by funding and technical assistance in partnership with USFWS made available to address potential impacts caused by construction and maintenance of the Diamond Pipeline, a crude oil pipeline that was recently constructed between Cushing, Okla. and Memphis. The Conservation Fund, a national organization dedicated to creating land and water protection strategies that balance environmental stewardship with economic vitality, serves as the administrator of the funding source and works collectively with Diamond Pipeline LLC and USFWS to achieve mitigation solutions with the highest conservation value.

“Our goal is to preserve lands and waters that regulatory agencies, nonprofits and local partners have identified as conservation priorities valued for their wildlife habitat and other natural resources,” said Andy Jones of The Conservation Fund. “Bats are important to a healthy ecology, and the efforts by ANHC to conserve their habitat are impressive. Through collaboration between businesses, federal agencies and local partners, we can continue to ensure that mitigation of unavoidable impacts is meaningful and achieves the highest quality conservation of significant habitats.”

“We appreciate the efforts of The Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arkansas National Heritage Commission for helping us find ways to conserve Arkansas bat habitats and mitigate the potential impact of constructing the Diamond Pipeline, which helps meet the energy needs of Arkansans and residents of several states in the region,” said Dean Gore, vice president of Environmental and Regulatory Compliance for Plains All American Pipeline, operator of the Diamond Pipeline.

About the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission
Since 1973, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC), a division of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, has worked to preserve the state’s natural diversity, to promote choice among beneficial uses of the environment, and to foster a balance between development and environmental protection. ANHC’s professional staff conducts field surveys to locate and evaluate natural communities and rare, threatened and endangered species. These field surveys and research projects have provided a wealth of information on more than 900 rare species that can be used to assess the relative imperilment of native species and shared for environmental planning purposes. ANHC provides data to organizations and individuals involved in conservation efforts, economic development, scientific research and education. To learn more about ANHC, visit NaturalHeritage.com and follow on Facebook and Instagram.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect nearly eight million acres of land. 

About Diamond Pipeline LLC
Diamond Pipeline LLC is a joint venture between Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline and San Antonio-based Valero. The Diamond Pipeline consists of approximately 440 miles of 20-inch pipeline capable of transporting up to 200,000 barrels per day of domestic crude oil from Cushing, Okla. to Memphis, Tenn. The project is estimated to cost about $900 million and provide approximately $11 million per year in tax revenue along the pipeline route. During construction, the Diamond project has created approximately 2,200 new contract construction positions across Oklahoma and Arkansas and approximately 15 permanent jobs along the pipeline once the pipeline is operational. More information is available at DiamondPipelineLLC.com

Ruthie Berryhill | Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission | 501-324-9619 | ruth.berryhill@arkansas.gov
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org