THE STATE WE'RE IN
WANTED: 15 progressive landowners to take part in an innovative project to protect New Jersey bats. No experience necessary, but must have suitable forest land, a desire to help an endangered species and a love of bats! All expenses paid, with possible eligibility for tax benefits under a new state law.
You may not know that New Jersey is home to nine bat species, including the federally endangered Indiana bat. During the summer, Indiana bats live in forests and wooded wetlands, where they roost and raise their young hidden under the loose bark of certain trees. Their ideal roost is near water, which helps provide the bats with abundant tasty insects.
Among the states with Indiana bats, New Jersey has relatively few — perhaps only 600 to 700. They've been found across northern New Jersey and are known to hibernate in the Hibernia and Mt. Hope Mines in Morris County.
Bats are incredibly beneficial to people and to our environment. Unfortunately, more than half of America's bats are in severe decline. In additional to the "normal" pressure caused by habitat loss from development, bats have been devastated by a new disease dubbed White-nose Syndrome, which threatens entire hibernating colonies.
White-nose Syndrome was confirmed in New Jersey last year, and is present in both the Hibernia and Mt. Hope sites. Its impact is stunning. Based on recent bat counts, it's estimated that 94 percent of these bats may have died. Counts that usually number in the 30,000s are down to 1,700 this winter. The only silver lining is that bats surviving hibernation normally recover over the summer.
The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is seeking 15 landowners with suitable forest land who are willing to conduct forest management practices and install artificial roosts to benefit Indiana bats, as well as our more common bats. Over a five-year period, the landowners would monitor the sites, both visually and using acoustic devices to record and identify species by their echolocation calls. Acoustic monitoring allows for passive study, without disturbing the animals.
Through a New Jersey Landowner Incentive Program grant, property owners will receive $1,500 for labor and materials related to forestry practices, and for construction and installation of four artificial roosting structures.
Dr. Emile DeVito, Manager of Science and Stewardship for New Jersey Conservation Foundation, explains the relevance of the project to New Jersey's recently passed Forest Stewardship Act, which provides incentives for landowners to improve their health of their forests: "Typically people don't consider constructing habitat for endangered species when they manage their property. They look at satisfying the old-fashioned farmland assessment requirements, which typically mean cutting down perfectly healthy trees."
Under the Forest Stewardship Act, landowners can get a property tax break if they actively manage their land for natural resource benefits, including endangered species protection.
If you have forested property, you could be one of the 15 landowners picked to work with Conserve Wildlife to help with New Jersey's endangered bats. Learn more about the Conserve Wildlife bat project at http://conservewildlife.blogspot.com/2010/01/indiana-bat-forestry-project.html