October, just like every other month was once again very busy at the Conservancy as it was for all of the organizations within the environmental community. For the Conservancy, among other activities, it was another wonderful Annual Fall Review. This year once again was packed full of presentations and activities starting with the in person meet and greet on Friday evening Oct. 14, great presentations on Saturday and continued by the Annual Membership meeting and the Quarterly Board of Directors meeting on Sunday at North Bend State Park in Cairo, West Virginia.
It was our first in-person meeting since the start of Covid so long ago. It was great to see everyone in person once again. The weather was cooperative, and Mother Nature provided a spectacular show of fall foliage for the trip to and from the meeting. See the article concerning the Fall Review in this issue of The Highlands Voice.
Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards
WVHC is again very pleased with the Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards program as we are again in the very busy fall season, where visitation to our highlands has skyrocketed and the already overcrowding at Dolly Sods. I want to personally thank all of the volunteers who have volunteered their time at the trailheads and for participating in the solitude monitoring surveys and campsite inventories. See the article in this month’s Highlands Voice for an update of the project.
Bats in West Virginia
Information published by the WV Extension Service
Bats are a highly specialized group of mammals that are often misunderstood. There are over 1,300 bat species worldwide and at least 14 species in WV. WV bats range in size from the eastern small-footed myotis (4.5 grams) to the hoary bat (27.5 grams), with the average size of a bat in WV being about 10 grams.
All 14 species of bats found in WV feed on insects. They are voracious eaters, consuming 50 to 75 percent of their body weight in insects each night.
A primary predator of nocturnal insects, bats can suppress populations of forest and agricultural pests. While one bat consuming between 5 and 7.5 grams of insects a night may not sound like much, consider that there may be 100,000 bats on the local landscape. The amount of insects consumed each night jumps to between 1,100 and 1,650 pounds.
Currently, several bat species are facing significant population declines from an introduced disease called white-nose syndrome.
White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus and impacts hibernating bats. In some hibernacula, hibernating bats have experienced 90 to 100 percent mortality. It is estimated that we have lost over 5.7 million bats in the eastern U.S. Not only are we losing these iconic species from the landscape, but we are also losing their suppression of our insects.
White-nose syndrome has been documented in WV, and we are seeing the impacts of this disease in our bat populations.
West Virginians can help combat this population decline by:
- Promoting bat conservation by understanding the ecological services that our bats provide and educating landowners of their importance.
- Finding caves or mines where bats may be hibernating during the winter months. If you enter those caves or mines outside of the hibernation period, be sure to decontaminate your clothing or gear before you enter another cave to help stop the spread of the white-nose fungus.
- Constructing bat houses to provide daytime roosting sites.
Senator Manchin’s Proposed Energy Permitting Provisions
Senator Joe Manchin pulled his contentious amendment to speed up energy project permitting from a stopgap spending bill, bowing to the inevitable after opposition from both parties.
Manchin’s proposal received pushback from Republicans and many Democrats who saw it as a giveaway to the Mountain Valley Pipeline developers that would excessively weaken environmental review processes protecting communities most venerable to polluting energy projects.
Environmentalist cheered the news that Manchin’s proposal had been dropped from the spending bill. They saw that the proposal would have weakened critical environmental protections and rubber stamped the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
I would like to thank the Highlands Conservancy members, the Fall Review Committee, the program director, and the Board of Director members for taking their time to plan and participate in the 2022 Fall Review and am looking forward to a very productive 2023 and would like to close with this that I found several years ago by A, G, Huger.
“No fairer land surely is this, where the hills are feathered with forest and braided with the rills! The mountains that over these green valley’s rise, ever woo’d by the winds, ever kissed by the skies; and the homes and hearts that they shall hold. Gifts sweeter than glory and richer than gold.”
Enjoy The Highlands Voice as we report on issues in or affecting the Highlands that we are endeavoring to protect for future generations and please stay safe as we start the holiday season.