/* Begin Common Code>
/* End Common Code> October 24, 2000
589 4-H Lake Rd
Daniels, WV 25832
Division of Environmental Protection
105 Railroad Street, Suite 301
Philippi, West Virginia 26416
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing in regard to Quarry Article 4 Application No. O-2036-86 submitted to your offices by Greer Lime Co. I wish to address an issue of possible habitat compromise for endangered bats in Hellhole.
Hellhole is a well-known hibernaculum for two endangered species of bat (Plecotus townsendii virginianus and Myotis sodalis). In addition, Hellhole is habitat for two bat species classified as ‘species of concern’ and two more species of rare invertebrates.
Cold air drainage off of North Fork Mountain flows into Hellhole each winter creating ideal habitat for the endangered species of bats located there. Loss of that habitat will mean loss of a significant portion of the world’s population of those species. Hellhole’s extensive deep development into the commercially valuable New Market limestone places it in a situation with high probability that further quarry development in its direction will ruin the cave’s ability to shelter the endangered bats. There is a likelihood that the eastward expansion of quarry operations will intercept a network of fractures and conduits connected to Hellhole. Should that happen, cold air will no longer collect in the cave and the hibernaculum will be lost forever.
To date, about 8.5 miles of cave passage have been surveyed in Hellhole, but denial of entry by the quarry operation has terminated the survey. The cave still has significant open passage heading in the direction of the proposed quarry expansion. It is important that the survey be allowed to continue along with appropriate hydrology, water tracing, and biologic studies in order to provide Hellhole with the protection it and its inhabitants deserve. Until those studies can be resumed and completed eastward expansion of the Greer Lime Co. quarry operation should not be allowed.
Denial of eastward expansion of the quarry at this time provides benefits to several parties. First, the cave’s biotic community benefits from the habitat preservation. The community of concerned karst enthusiasts benefits from preservation of the recreational and aesthetic values provided by one of the world’s truly unique caves. The Germany Valley residents benefit from the bats and land aesthetics provided by this unique resource. Greer Lime Co. benefits from the good will generated by taking the environmentally responsible course of action. Also, the studies will provide the quarry operation with some of the data needed for future quarry expansion. There is also a potentially significant economic advantage to the quarry company by avoiding litigation and lawsuits that may result from loss of endangered bat hibernaculum habitat associated with Hellhole.
Douglas G. Boyer, Ph.D.