Adaptive Management Strategy for White-nose Syndrome

Effective August 1, 2013 the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region will be implementing an adaptive management strategy for white-nose syndrome (WNS) on national forests and grasslands in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Kansas. The adaptive management strategy replaces emergency cave closures that have been in place throughout the Region since 2010 when Geomyces destructans (Gd), the fungus that causes WNS, was discovered in Oklahoma.

Neither WNS nor the fungus that causes the disease has yet to be confirmed in the Rocky Mountain Region. The adaptive management approach includes proactive measures to limit the likelihood of introducing the fungus to caves in the region and protect bat populations before the disease arrives.

Information for Cavers

For national forests and grasslands in the Rocky Mountain Region, most caves are open to public access with some important requirements and exceptions:

  1. Registration is required to access caves that are open. 
  2. Clothing and equipment used in states/provinces where white-nosed syndrome is found or suspected are prohibited.
  3. Decontamination procedures following US Fish and Wildlife Service protocols are required by everyone to enter any and all caves.
  4. All known cave hibernacula are closed during the winter hibernation period.

View required decontamination procedures, cave registration, and forest orders listing closed caves.

About White Nose Syndrome (WNS) in Bats

Bats with White-Nose Syndrome. View an informational video by the National Park Service.Since its discovery in 2006, WNS has caused the death of more than 5 million bats in eastern North America. The disease is caused by a fungus, Geomyces destructans, that was first documented in North America in New York during the winter of 2005-06. The fungus thrives in cool, moist environments common in caves and mines. These locations are also favored by bats when they hibernate each winter.

The spread of the fungus and disease is presumed to be largely based on bat-to-bat interactions, though it is possible humans can inadvertently spread the fungus to uninfected sites.  Spores of the fungus can persist outside cave environments and can be moved by way of clothing and equipment that has been in contact with the fungus in contaminated caves. Frequently asked questions.

Environmental Analysis

Ten of 11 units in the Rocky Mountain Region participated in the Environmental Assessment that compared 3 management alternatives for white-nose syndrome in the Region.  The WNS management objective is to reduce the potential for human introduction, the spread.  

All 10 Forest Supervisors selected the adaptive management alternative, which includes different management approaches (management “Tiers”) based on the status of WNS in the Rocky Mountain Region. Each management tier includes a combination of required and optional management actions designed to provide flexibility to meet local management needs.