Killing bats to save them!


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In a wonderful example of government stupidity, environmental officials in Wisconsin want to try to “exclude” bats from caves in order to prevent the spread of white nose syndrome.

Some quick background: White nose syndrome appeared in upstate New York about four years ago, killing about 90 percent of the bats affected. It has since spread down the east coast following bat migration patterns as they travel during the summer months. (While human activity might spread the syndrome as well, the evidence all points to the bats as the primary vector.) A newly discovered fungus that is seen on all affected bats, for which the syndrome is named, is the prime suspect for killing them, as it disturbs them during hibernation, causing them to wake more frequently, burn up their reserves,and thus starve to death.

Wisconsin officials, in their infinte wisdom, have decide that the way they will save the bats of their state will be to declare the fungus an invasive specie. They will then be empowered to do anything they can to prevent its spread. And how will they do this? By preventing bats from entering caves and bringing the fungus with them.

Let me say that again: Wisconsin environment officials want to “exclude bats from caves” in order to save them. The result of course will be a biological genocide, since without access to caves during the cold hibernation period the bats will surely die.

If you don’t believe me, see this press release. To quote:

The third proposed rule adds provisions to NR 40.04 and 40.07 relating to early detection and prevention of the spread of the disease due to human activities, including the decontamination of clothes and equipment that have been used in mines or caves, and limited access of bats or people to caves or mines. [emphasis mine]

If you still don’t believe me, read the state’s actual proposed management plan [pdf]. To quote page 5:

Under the proposed rules, the department may ask any person who owns, controls, or manages property here a cave or mine may be present to install and properly maintain physical barriers to limit access to the cave or mine by either individuals or bats, in accordance with a plan approved by the department. The department is seeking funding to assist with the installation of barriers, and therefore cost to those parties who install such barriers should be negligible. Additionally, commercial caves will have the option to exclude bats from their cave(s) with the help of the department, allowing them to remain open for tourism, and resulting in no loss of tourism dollars. [emphasis mine]

Moreover, this plan will give these officials the power to enter private property without the landowners’ permission.

Cavers have been trying to explain to the Wisconsin officials that this entire approach is madness. So far, these pleas have had very little effect. You can see their efforts here.

This whole story might be one of the best examples of why it is always bad idea to concentrate a lot of power in the hands of government. Better to spread the power around among a lot of private landowners, as then you also spread the stupidity around as well, and reduce the chances that the only approach taken is the worse approach.

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