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Last updated 3:44AM ET
December 5, 2021
Nebraska News
Nebraska News
U.S. Forest Service Protects Bats, Closing Caves in Five States
(KUNC) - The U.S. Forest Service announced plans today to limit human access to caves and abandoned mines in Colorado and four other states. It's in response to a little-understood fungus that's killed over 1 million bats along the East Coast, which is moving closer to the Rocky Mountain region.

The closure takes effect immediately and applies to Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota. The U.S. Forest Service is concerned that humans entering the caves will inadvertently spread the disease further west. There are some exceptions, like scientific research. One tourist-destination cave in South Dakota on Forest Service land is exempt because it already limits human access.

Tony Dixon is deputy regional forester for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service.

"The intent here is to balance our ecosystem," he says. "Not [to] lose our entire bat population."

The closure is particularly bad news to hundreds of people who regularly visit caves on U.S. Forest Land in the state.

David Lambert is chairman of the Colorado Cave Survey, an umbrella group that represents about 500 cavers in the state.

"It is a huge blow," he says. "Because the majority of caves in Colorado do exist on Forest Service land."

Lambert says his group hopes to work with the Forest Service to identify caves that are not inhabited by bats, which can be reopened. The closures announced today last for one year.
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