Germany Valley Karst Survey, Surveying Caves, Karst and Karst Features of Germany Valley, West Virginia

October 13, 2000

West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection
105 Railroad Street, Suite 301
Philippi, WV 26416

Dear Sirs,

We have recently become aware of the permit application to expand the Greer Lime Company's Germany Valley (Pendleton County) operation to the east. As you may be aware, this causes a significant risk to Hell Hole, one of the most important caves east of the Mississippi River. Aside from it's length, depth, geological, and historical significance, Hell Hole has unique cold-trapping abilities that few caves possess, making it an ideal hibernaculum for overwintering bats. At least seven species of bats are present, including two Federally-endangered species, the Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) and the Indiana myotis (Myotis sodalis). In fact, the recent winter population of Virginia big-eared bats has been estimated at 9,000 individuals, the largest known colony of this species in the world. No more that 20,000 Virginia big-eared bats exist anywhere, so this cave is of utmost importance to the survival of that species.

The 9000 or so Indiana myotis hibernating in the cave are in a similar situation. Indiana bats need particularly cold sites for hibernation. Even in the northern parts of their range suitable caves are extremely rare. Hell Hole has the largest winter population of Indiana myotis in the entire Mid-Atlantic region. This species is still declining despite efforts to protect their hibernacula over the last two decades. At the current rate, they are projected to be extinct by 2012. Recent cave microclimate studies have given us hope to reverse this trend, but we still cannot afford to lose a population like that found in Hell Hole.

Bat Conservation International feels that the quarry can easily coexist with the cave, as long as the cave remains intact. Our biggest concern is that Hell Hole is incompletely mapped, and there is a high probability that the proposed eastward expansion of the quarry could intersect cave passages. This would be tragic, as new openings into the cave could alter existing airflow and cave microclimates, destroying the unique conditions therein. We highly recommend further exploration and survey of the cave before the quarry is permitted to encroach further. Expanding the quarry in directions away from the cave is, of course, the most desirable option.

Sincerely,

Jim Kennedy
Cave Resources Specialist
jkennedy@batcon.orgf