Schoharie, New York - The Northeastern Cave Conservancy on Sunday voted unanimously to close all of its caves until May 15, 2009. Caves immediately affected include Clarksville, Onesquethaw, and those on the Selleck's Preserve. Other NCC Caves have been closed for the winter to protect hibernating bats.
The NCC action follows Thursday's call by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for a moratorium on caving to reduce the risks of further spread of White Nose Syndrome, which has been killing bats across the northeast and now spread to the Middle Atlantic States.
In addition to closing its caves until May 15, the NCC action called for the Conservancy to "in the interim work with the USFWS to improve the efficacy of their cave advisory of March 26, 2009 toward our common goal of limiting the spread of White Nose Syndrome."
NCC President, Robert Addis, said, "The NCC has been deeply involved in the investigation and management of White Nose Syndrome since its discovery, and we want to do everything we can to continue to help. We look forward to discussing with the USFWS how best to do this," he added.
The meeting was attended by cavers and conservancy members from throughout the northeast, as well as at least one adjoining landowner. They and NCC board members raised specific concerns about several components of the USFWS advisory.
The concerns included potential vandalism and other damage to NCC preserve and adjoining landowner properties if the caves were closed for an extended period of time.
Others raised issues about the loss of educational opportunity about White Nose Syndrome for the thousands of people who routinely visit the NCC caves. Others were concerned about the financial impact on the primary mission of the NCC of raising money to acquire and protect significant cave and karst resources.
"As experienced cave managers since 1978, we have some additional considerations that need to be balanced in the context of helping to contain the spread of WNS," Addis said.
"We hope to be able to work with the USFWS to refine and improve how our shared goal is met."