Volume 12
Issue 2

The growing trend in forming conservation partnerships promotes action in areas long overlooked . . .

Protecting bats and their habitats in the United States took another leap forward this spring as a result of a new cooperative agreement Bat Conservation International made with two federal agencies. On April 13 in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., BCI signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Forest Service and the Soil Conservation Service (SCS). Both are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. BCI founder Merlin Tuttle attended, along with BCI’s Director of Planning and Management, Steve Walker, and Director of Conservation and Education, Mike Leonard. Deputy Chief for National Forest Systems Gray Reynolds and SCS Chief Paul Johnson attended on behalf of their agencies.

Addressing the ceremony participants, Reynolds said, “As the Forest Service moves towards an ecosystem management approach, we recognize the important role bats play in forest and desert ecosystems.” He also stressed the need for learning more about bats, improving habitat conditions, and protecting areas needed by bats for roosting, reproduction, and hibernation. The Forest Service administers over 191 million acres of public lands and therefore has an important role in maintaining habitats for bats. Reynolds concluded by proclaiming, “We are excited about this opportunity and look forward to working with BCI in this important conservation effort.”

Since its beginning in 1905, the Forest Service has been responsible for national leadership in forestry conservation and management of public lands in our National Forest System. Today its first priority is maintaining the ecological integrity of the forest and grassland ecosystems in its jurisdiction, while providing sustainable, multiple benefits to the public.

In contrast, the Soil Conservation Service focuses on private lands, providing educational, technical, and other assistance to landowners so that they can improve management practices for fish and wildlife habitat on their land. Paul Johnson said, “In recognition of the vital role bats play in agricultural landscapes, and the serious economic and environmental consequences of further losses of native bat populations, SCS is working with BCI to highlight bat conservation as a key component of ecosystem-based assistance to farmers and ranchers. SCS has traditionally promoted the conservation of natural resources, particularly those offering important and irreplaceable benefits to the farm and private landowner.” He added that bat conservation efforts are representative of the many innovative programs and cooperative ventures pursued by the SCS as part of its mission.

Under the new agreements BCI and the Forest Service will assist each other in conducting bat species inventories and monitoring populations, in initiating actions to preserve bats, and in expanding their habitats throughout the National Forest System. The SCS and BCI will collaborate to educate private landowners about the benefits of bats and the need to protect their habitat. Educational programs and training workshops will be developed for both agencies. In addition, existing and proposed programs will be evaluated to ensure that management strategies actively promote the conservation of bats.
As many agencies begin to reevaluate their mission and approach toward conservation, opportunities are growing for collaboration with private-sector conservation groups. This trend is exciting news for bats, since their conservation needs have so long been neglected. Last year BCI also signed an MOU with the Bureau of Land Management [BATS, Summer 1993], which already has led to the establishment of a major new program department at BCI to address the issue of bat habitat in mines [BATS, Spring 1994].

A new partnership between BCI, the Forest Service, and the Soil Conservation Service will help put bat conservation into land management plans. Forest Service Deputy Chief Gray Reynolds (left), Merlin Tuttle (center), and SCS Chief Paul Johnson (right) signed the agreement at a Washington ceremony.