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Patricia A. Bingham
118 Autumn Dr.
Stafford, VA 22554
WV Division of Environmental Protection
105 Railroad Street
Philippi, West Virginia 26416
October 17, 2000
This letter concerns the Greer Limestone Company’s petition to expand its operations towards the direction of Hellhole, which is listed under six of the eleven categories within the West Virginia Significant Cave List. It is written on behalf of the Battlefield Area Troglodyte Society (BATS), a group of cavers that is affiliated with the National Speleological Society.
Limestone is a valuable economic resource, especially to West Virginia. The caving community fully recognizes this and supports the quarrying and the resulting economic benefits that Greer Limestone Company has brought to Germany Valley.
However, the proposed expansion has many people concerned. Hellhole is a very important cave for thousands of federally protected bats, to include Virginia big-eared bats, and Indiana bats. It also shelters two rare cave millipedes. Hellhole is a closed cave, one that has been designated off-limits to the general public, to include cavers. As Hellhole is such a valuable cave to the State of West Virginia, BATS supports its closed status because of its biological and geological sensitivity.
The extent of Hellhole is unknown at this time, mainly because of the cave’s inclusion on the closed-cave list. There are very experienced and ethical cavers who would be willing, without charge, to map Hellhole to determine its boundaries. An accurate survey of Hellhole is vital before quarrying operations commence in the proposed direction. If the cave is accidentally breached by quarrying activities the effect on the world’s remaining populations of these unique bats could be catastrophic. A well-conducted survey could put aside most, if not all, concerns from all interested parties.
Bats are rapidly becoming popular with the general public, as demonstrated by the boon in sales of bat houses and by the increasing numbers of school and museum programs featuring bats. Cities, such as Austin, Texas, find that their bat populations bring in tourism dollars. They are vital both as pollinators and insect control agents. As people become more and more interested in the outdoors and also in unusual creatures, our bat populations will need all the protection we can give them. We can protect this natural resource, while still meeting the economic and social needs of our communities. Working together may help the Greer Limestone Company avoid the potential bad publicity that would result from the accidental destruction of a significant population of federally protected bats.
While the right of Greer Limestone Company to quarry should be supported, BATS feels there needs to be a more careful and exacting assessment made of the situation before operations are permitted to expand and, perhaps, result in a violation of federal laws.
Patricia A. Bingham
Assistant Newsletter Editor
Battlefield Area Troglodyte Society