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/* End Common Code> HC 72 Box 1409
Locust Grove, VA
October 23, 2000
Division of Environmental Protection
105 Railroad Street, Suite 301
Philippi, West Virginia 26416
I am writing to express my concerns with Greer Limestone’s permit application to expand their quarry operation in Germany Valley. Hellhole Cave is located next to their current operation. The proposed direction of this expansion is in the direction of Hellhole Cave.
Hellhole Cave is habitat for two federally endangered species of bats, Virginia Big-Eared Bat (Plecotus townsendiivirginianus) and Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis). Currently 45% of the world’s total population of the Virginia Big-Eared Bat lives in Hellhole Cave along with 9000 Indiana Bats. The unique climate in Hellhole Cave is attributed to attracting this large population of endangered bats. Hellhole Cave has an in cave temperature of 47 degrees, about 10 degrees colder then most other caves in the region. Cold air is trapped in Hellhole Cave’s extensive passages and is not flushed out by seasonal changes exterior to the cave because it has only one natural entrance much higher than the cave system.
An accidental breach of this cave system by Greer Limestone’s quarrying operation would have an immediate devastating effect on this delicate habitat. The breach would open passages lower than the natural opening. Thermal dynamic convection air currents would be created throughout Hellhole Cave allowing ambient air to flush through the cave. This would have a devastating effect disturbing and endangering the Indiana and Virginia Big-Eared Bats.
There are no known caves in this region duplicating the unique habitat conditions in Hellhole Cave. A breach of this cave system would most certainly lead to the extinction of these bats through habitat deprivation in this region. This breach would represent a totally avoidable and inexcusable violation of the federal endangered species protection act.
Currently Greer Limestone is leasing the land containing the only entrance to Hellhole Cave. Greer Limestone refuses to allow additional exploration, survey and documentation of this cave and the federally endangered species habitat that it represents. The full extent of Hellhole cave is unknown at this time. The last exploration and survey expeditions documented many large and continuing passages in this cave system in the direction of Greer Limestone’s current operation.
Limestone is a valuable natural resource and an important economic industry for West Virginia. I strongly support quarrying operations and Greer Limestone’s intention to obtain permits to continue this important contribution to the State of West Virginia’s economy. The proposed expansion of Greer Limestone’s quarrying operation threatens to breach Hellhole Cave. This permit application should not be approved until the full extent of Hellhole Cave is surveyed and documented to protect these endangered species.
Michael J. Manke
President Battlefield Area Troglodyte Society