Corporations can be strong allies for bat conservation by restoring and enhancing wildlife habitat on corporate lands. To encourage corporate conservation, Bat Conservation International has partnered for a number of years with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) to present the Bat Conservation Action Award.
Freeport-McMoRan, a mining company that owns the Morenci Mine in Arizona, was the 2015 recipient for its outstanding bat preservation and education efforts. Freeport-McMoRans Morenci Operations Team was honored at the WHCs annual symposium in December.
I personally am proud of the hard work by so many employees to further these efforts. Winning the BCI award two years in a row confirms that our ongoing efforts, particularly around bat habitat conservation and education, are truly world-class, says Bill Cobb, vice president-Environmental Services and Sustainable Development for Freeport-McMoRan.
The Morenci Operations team received the Bat Conservation Action Award for efforts to protect Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) and Townsends big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii) that inhabit the Eagle Creek Bat Cave and the Frisco Mine near the Morenci mine site.
The Eagle Creek Bat Cave was once thought to be home to one of North Americas largest colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats. Over the decades, high levels of human disturbance, culminating in the guano deposit being lit on fire, resulted in complete abandonment of the cave by the colony. A partnership between BCI, Freeport-McMoRan and the Bureau of Land Management resulted in a protective gate being placed on the cave in 2010. At the time the colony size was estimated at 30,000 bats. Now, after the gate has been in place for five years, the maternity colony is estimated to be 1.8 million bats strong.
The Frisco Mine is a mixed-use summer colony for bats that was slated for a destructive closure before it was saved upon discovery of its importance as a roost. The site serves as a maternity colony for Townsends big-eared bats, a day roost for cave myotis (Myotis velifer) and potentially as a maternity colony for California leaf-nosed bats (Macrotus californicus). With more than 150 Townsends big-eared bats using the mine, this colony is considered significantly large for the species in the Southwest.
The award also recognized the Morenci Operations teams efforts in educating employees and the public about the importance of the bats in the ecosystem, and its partnership with Graham and Greenlee County schools to develop student curriculum.
For a complete list of winners of the WHC International Conservation Awards, visit wildlifehc.org.