Black Hills National Forest implements an adaptive management plan to reduce the potential spread of white-nose syndrome in bats, while providing reasonable access to the caving community

Release Date: Aug 1, 2013  

Contact(s): Scott Jacobson, (605) 673-9216


Custer, SD - Effective August 1, cavers on the Black Hills National Forest will need to register before entering a cave, and have their signed registration form when visiting caves. Cavers also will be required to decontaminate clothing and gear before and after cave entry. All caving gear that has been used in caves or mines in white-nose syndrome (WNS) affected States and Canadian Provinces (http://whitenosesyndrome.org/resources/map) is strictly prohibited in caves in the Rocky Mountain Region. Black Hills National Forest caves known to be used for winter hibernation will be closed from Oct. 1 – May 31 to minimize disturbance to hibernating bats. Davenport and Blue Crystal Caves will remain closed year-long.

White-nose syndrome and the fungus that causes it – Geomyces destructans (Gd) – have not been confirmed in any of the five states that make up the Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service. Of 45 bat species in the United States, approximately 25 species hibernate and at least seven of those have been affected by WNS. Four of the affected bat species (little brown, tri-colored, northern long-eared and big brown) occur in the Rocky Mountain Region.

These measures are important to reduce the potential for humans to introduce the disease into the area. Increasing public awareness about white-nose syndrome and engaging the caving community will enhance the Forest Service’s ability to understand and monitor bats and other cave resources. To aid in this effort, one component of this plan is for optional feedback from cavers in the form of trip reports.

The adaptive management plan replaces an emergency closure order in place since 2010.

“Our intent is to protect bat species from the westward spread of white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease that has killed 5.5 million bats since 2006,” said Steven Lenzo, Deputy Forests and Grasslands Supervisor Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands. Lenzo served as the Forest Supervisor representative on the team that developed the cave management plan. “In cooperation with cavers on national forests, the adaptive approach will reduce the potential human spread of white-nose syndrome, while providing reasonable management options for access.”

The adaptive approach includes 3 tiers of management based on the status of WNS and Gd:

  • Tier 1- White-nose syndrome is not confirmed within 250 miles of a national forest; caves are open with seasonal closures for caves important to bats.
  • Tier 2- White-nose syndrome confirmed within 250 miles; all caves are generally closed
  • Tier 3- White-nose syndrome is endemic or has minimal impacts on bat populations- revert to Forest Plan direction

The majority of national forests in the Rocky Mountain Region are currently under Tier 1 management; only the Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands are in Tier 2 based on proximity to the 2010 confirmation of Gd in Oklahoma.

Implementing Tier 1 of the adaptive management approach includes the following measures:

  • Closure of known caves that serve as bat hibernacula during the winter hibernation season is Oct. 1 – May 31 on the Black Hills National Forest.
  • Prohibition on the use of gear used in caves or mines in states and Canadian provinces where WNS or Gd has been confirmed.
  • Decontamination of gear and clothing for cave entries.
  • Required online registration for cave access to help increase white-nose syndrome awareness, better understand recreational cave-use patterns, and provides cavers the opportunity to file a post-trip report. Go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5430159.pdf to register online.

Each management tier includes optional management actions that may be implemented based on local conditions (for example, year-round closure of hibernacula; closures at maternity sites).

A Forest Service website provides background on white-nose syndrome, details on the adaptive management approach, and information for cavers at www.fs.usda.gov/r2.


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The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $27 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.