British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Best management practices for bats in British Columbia : mine developments and inactive mine habitats Holroyd, Susan; Craig, Vanessa Joy; Govindarajulu, Purnima 2016

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69  BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES FOR BATS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: MINE DEVELOPMENTS AND INACTIVE MINE HABITATS   Susan Holroyd1, M.Sc.  Vanessa Craig2, Ph.D. Purnima Govindarajulu3, Ph.D.   1 Holroyd Consulting (independent),  Calgary, Alberta, (  2 Ecologic Research,  Gabriola Island, B.C. (  3 Small Mammal and Herpetofauna Specialist, B.C. Ministry of Environment,  PO Box 9338 Stn Prov Govt Victoria, BC, V8W 9M1 (  ABSTRACT British Columbia has the highest diversity of bat species in Canada (16 of 19 species). Many are of conservation concern due to threats from urban, agricultural, and industrial development; and the emerging threat of White-nose Syndrome, which has recently arrived in western North America. Mines are an important habitat feature for bats in the province, used by bats for hibernating in winter, roosting in summer, and reproductive swarming in autumn. Although closing or re-opening inactive mines can kill bats or degrade habitat, properly managed mines can maintain suitable habitat, which supports bat conservation and population recovery initiatives. Best management practices (BMPs) play an important role in the joint stewardship model of natural resource management. In April 2016, the B.C. Ministry of Environment, in consultation with the Ministry of Energy and Mines, posted best management practices for bats and bat habitats ( The chapter on mining provides guidance on surveys, seasonal timing windows, buffers, and closure techniques to help minimize and mitigate the effects of mining activities on bats and their habitats. This paper provides an overview of some of the recommendations in the chapter, focusing on procedures when closing or re-opening mines  KEYWORDS Bat, Myotis, Best Management Practices, hibernation, significant roost, mines, mitigation  INTRODUCTION  British Columbia (B.C.) has a rich history of mining, and mining is still a growing industry in the province. Mines are an important roost habitat for bats, and represent a critical habitat type when used as hibernation sites or (more rarely) as nursery roosts. Bats do not distinguish between natural habitat in caves and the man-made habitat provided as a result of mining activities. The Mineral Inventory database (MINFILE) indicates that there are approximately 1333 inactive underground mines in the province (MEMPR 2007; K. Hancock, pers. comm.). The large number of inactive underground mine sites in the 70  province, and likely high bat usage of these features, means that there is a significant need for clear guidelines and best management practice documents for the mining industry. Because of the large potential impact of mining activities on the quality of bat habitat and on bat populations, the Government of B.C. produced Best Management Practices (BMPs; Holroyd and Craig 2016) to provide proponents with general guidelines to minimize negative effects on bats when working in and around mines. The mines chapter is one of a larger document (Holroyd et al. 2016) that contains information about species of bats in B.C., including their ecology, and BMPs for various development activities, such as mining, wind development, and activities around cave and crevice habitat. This paper provides an overview of BMPs for activities in and around mines, but does not include all of the rationale and detail contained in the primary document. The mines chapter includes additional information on bat use of mines and potential impacts of mining on bats and bat habitat; best practices guidelines for opening new mines as well as re-opening or closing mines; monitoring and reporting requirements when working around mines; and a list of information needs to help inform adaptive management of bat habitat associated with mines. When implementing the BMPs, it is recommended that proponents consult the latest version of the complete document on the B.C. Ministry of Environment website  BAT DIVERSITY, ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION  British Columbia is the most bat-diverse province in Canada; 16 of the 19 Canadian bat species have been recorded in the province. More than half of bat species in B.C. are considered to be at risk provincially, listed either as Endangered or Threatened (Red-list), or Sensitive or Vulnerable to population declines (Blue-list). At the federal level, two bat species found in B.C. are listed as Endangered, one is listed as Threatened, and one listed as a species of Special Concern.   The primary threats to bats and their habitats in B.C. arise from destruction of roosting and foraging habitats from residential or urban development, and associated expansion of transportation corridors and resource extraction activities; direct mortality due to inappropriate bat exclusion in human structures and at wind power facilities; and, most recently, White-nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS, a fungal disease caused by Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Gargas et al. 2009; Minnis and Lindner 2013), was first observed in New York in the winter of 2006-2007. WNS is now estimated to have killed more than 6 million bats (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016). Mortality results from the fungus disrupting the normal physiological processes bats use during hibernation, resulting in bats depleting their fat reserves and starving to death (Verant et al. 2014). Since its initial detection, WNS has spread and has now been detected in five provinces and 32 U.S. States (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016). In March 2016, WNS was detected in Washington State, and is now an emerging threat to all hibernating B.C. bat species that surpasses all other threats to populations combined.   Effective bat management requires knowledge of the activity cycles and habitat use of bats. The annual cycle of bat activity can be divided into winter hibernation, spring migration and initiation of pregnancy, summer foraging, reproduction (birth of young, nursing, weaning and flight of young) and fall migration and mating. The exact timing of these phases varies by region and annual climatic conditions. Bats require two major types of habitat: roosting habitat, where habitat preference varies by species, season, 71  sex, life-stage, and time of day; and foraging/drinking habitat, where habitat preference varies with species and season. Bats have other minor but essential habitat requirements, such as specialized swarming habitats (where bats congregate at caves or mines in late summer/early fall for mating and possibly courtship) and safe migrating and commuting habitats, which may not be used often or for long durations, but are still essential to maintain stable populations.  BAT USE OF MINES  Mines provide vitally important roost habitat for bats. The limited data available on bat usage of mines from B.C. indicate that mines are a significant resource for bats. In one study, 17 of 20 mines surveyed had some sign of bat activity, and five of the 20 sites were well used by bats (C. Lausen, pers. comm.). In addition, the largest known bat hibernaculum in British Columbia, which is used by an estimated 3000 bats comprising four bat species, is in an inactive mine (Isaac and Lausen 2014; Lausen 2016). Surveys in the western USA indicate that approximately half the inactive mines surveyed showed some type of use by bats, with 10% used to a significant extent (Altenbach 1998).  Fourteen of the 16 species of bats in B.C. may use mine workings at some point during their annual life cycle. Mines may be used during swarming activity in the fall, hibernation during the winter, or roosting in summer. At least 12 bat species likely use mines for hibernation. In addition to using mines for hibernating, bats may also enter mines in winter to forage on hibernating insects (C. Lausen, pers. comm.). Use of mines for maternity roosts is limited to some species, such as Townsend’s Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii), which require cooler temperatures for maternity sites (Craig 2003; Hill et al. 2005, 2006). Many species (and both sexes) will use mines in summer for night-roosting (an evening rest stop during which bats congregate to digest consumed food, and perhaps undertake social behaviours before resuming foraging), or day-roosting (typically non-reproductive females, or males). Generally, bats show high roost fidelity (return yearly) to “permanent” types of roosts (roosts that maintain stable characteristics over many years such as mines, caves, buildings, bridges, and cavities of large trees; Lewis 1995). Therefore, changes to these permanent-type mine roosts will have a large potential impact on the bat populations in the area that use these features.  Attributes of underground features used by bats include (based on Pierson et al. 1999, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2009, Sherwin et al. 2009): 1. Cave/mine portal openings at least 30 cm in diameter. Cave/mine entrances that are flooded or prone to flooding are not often used, but use may depend on frequency and extent of flooding. 2. Cave/mine passages that extend for 30 m or more, although some species may roost in summer in areas close to an opening (<10 metres deep); 3. Vertical passages that are at least 60 cm in diameter with some air flow; 4. Presence of a specific temperature regime (usually from just above freezing to less than approximately 9˚C), with specific airflow patterns and high humidity levels (Thomas et al. 1990; Thomas and Cloutier 1992; Nagorsen and Brigham 1993);  5. Uncluttered entrances (i.e., low amounts of vegetation or other clutter). The more clutter around the opening, and the smaller the opening, the fewer the species that are likely to use it.   72  POTENTIAL IMPACTS OF MINING ACTIVITIES   Both opening/re-opening and closure of mines have impacts on bat habitat. Because the focus of this conference is on mine reclamation, we highlight areas from the BMPs that address re-opening or closure of inactive mines. For additional BMPs for development of a new mine, see the full BMP document.  Reopening inactive mines Because of the high potential for use of inactive mines by bats, reopening mines will likely result in direct loss of bat habitat. Blasting during site preparation, construction, and the mining activity itself creates noise and can cause physical disturbance that can affect bat colonies. Blasting can also affect the integrity of underground roosting habitat by collapsing features and by changing the airflow, humidity, and temperature regimes. Above-ground activities in the area of a mine, such as clearing forest cover, building roads, and constructing support buildings, can affect other important habitat features for bats. Removal of forest cover in summer will cause direct mortality of bats where tree roosts are occupied when the activity occurs. In some areas, removal of forest cover may contribute to loss of winter tree-roosting habitat. At one inactive mine site in the Kootenay region, bats switch between mine and tree roost sites throughout the winter (C. Lausen, pers. comm.). Removal of vegetation cover near the mine entrance or above the surface of the underground structure of the mine may also significantly alter temperature, surface hydrology, and air flow within mines (Nieland 2000). Loss or degradation of suitable wetland foraging areas in the vicinity of mines may occur due to construction or water extraction activities, if it results in a lowered water table. Placement of rock piles, tailings piles, or tailings ponds may change the direction of water courses, making them less suitable for bats. In addition, acidification or leaching of contaminants, where present in parent materials at the mine site, can negatively affect emergent aquatic insect prey, which can be contaminated through bioaccumulation of metals and/or organic compounds released through mining processes (Maret et al. 2003).   Closing inactive mines Mines may be closed for public safety reasons or for habitat remediation, resulting in the loss of important habitat for bats if not done in a bat-sensitive manner. Depending on how and when the closure occurs, bats may be trapped inside the mine, or the important attributes of the mine could be altered, rendering them unsuitable. Alternative suitable sites may not be known by bats, or may not be available in the immediate area. Disturbance while the mine is occupied may force individuals to change roosts, using valuable resources resulting in increased metabolic stress and potentially death.  BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES FOR BAT MANAGEMENT IN INACTIVE MINES  The Best Management Practices document outlines three phases when re-opening or closing a mine. The assessment, planning, and avoidance phases are very similar whether a mine is being re-opened or closed (Table 1). However, the mitigation and compensation plans will be specific to the activity, the site, the bat species present, and the project’s activities.   73  Assessment Phase: Note that all work in potential winter roosts of bats (whether or not bats are present) should employ decontamination procedures to minimize the possibility of introduction and transmission of White-nose Syndrome (B.C. Wildlife Health Program 2016).   The Assessment phase involves assessing both the relative importance of the site in a regional context, and the extent of bat use at the particular site. During this phase, information on the availability of karst features, other underground mine workings, forest cover, wetlands and other potential foraging areas within the Landscape Unit is compiled. This information is used to determine whether underground roosting habitat is limiting in the area, which helps establish the regional importance of the site. It also facilitates an assessment of cumulative effects of multiple human resource developments within the Landscape Unit.   Table 1. Phases in implementing Best Management Practices when re-opening or closing a mine.  Assessment 1. Define the assessment area in terms of the local area of impact of the development footprint, and a regional area of impact to assess ecosystem/population-level effects. 2. Determine species present and estimate relative abundance if possible. 3. Assess presence, use, and regional importance of specific bat habitats.  Planning 1. Based on the assessment above, assess level of risk posed by the mining activity, and determine whether specific bat management plans are necessary. 2. If management for bats is required, develop a “Protection Plan” for the site. Avoiding impacts is the preferred strategy for managing potential impacts, mitigation is the next preferred strategy, and compensation (trade-off with conservation benefits outside the development area) is the final option.  Protection Plan: Avoidance 1. Avoid displacement or mortality of bats using timing windows (temporal separation). 2. Avoid destruction/degradation of bat roosts by changing development plans to areas away from bat use habitats (spatial separation). 3. Avoid adverse impacts on bats by modifying techniques used in the mining operation. Protection Plan: Mitigation  1. Replace lost or degraded habitat within the development area (e.g., bat boxes, pond creation, creation of artificial concrete ‘caves’);  2. Plan for future recovery of the development site by establishing wildlife tree reserves (Maser et al 1979) and plan for green tree recruitment for future roosting opportunities. Protection Plan: Compensation 1. Compensatory protection outside development area resulting in “no-net-loss” at the regional level or at the level of bat populations (i.e., protecting equivalent habitat within the watershed outside of the development area).  The second step in the assessment phase is to establish bat use of the site. A preliminary list of species that may be in the area can be assembled from published sources. Site-specific survey data may also be available for the area. This background data collection provides information about the bat fauna expected to occur in the area; however, in most cases it will be necessary to establish bat presence and use of the 74  site through surveys. The most commonly used and cost-effective survey method to determine whether bats use a feature is an acoustic survey using passive acoustic detectors. Acoustic survey data can be analysed to provide a relative index of bat activity, and to identify some of the species that are present. Detectors are placed at entrances to the mine and can also be placed in the surrounding habitat to identify use of features such as wetlands, caves, or forest. Visual surveys are another commonly-used technique for assessing habitat use. Visual surveys are conducted by standing outside roost exits and counting bats as they emerge, or by entering a feature and counting roosting bats. Capture and radio-tracking are additional techniques that may be used to identify species and to understand micro-habitat selection within the site. All bat surveys should be conducted only by experienced bat biologists because detecting, identifying, capturing and tracking bats requires extensive training and technical knowledge to be successful.  The goal for these surveys is to identify specific areas used by bats so that avoidance and/or mitigation options can be included in the project plan. Where a mine is used for roosting by bats, surveys should delineate the roost complex, including all portals/exits. Where the mine can be surveyed internally, mapping the tunnels that may provide roosting habitat for bats, and collecting information on the attributes of the feature will assist in understanding bat ecology at the site.  Multiple years of data collection is required because of natural seasonal and yearly variations in bat activity, and to ensure that the survey effort is sufficient to survey even the rarer species (e.g., Skalak et al. 2012). Prior to permanent closure of a mine, mine tunnel, or cave where bat access will be blocked, two years of data showing that bats do not use the feature should be collected. Prior to re-opening a mine, the area should be surveyed for a minimum of one full year at all potential habitats (roosting and foraging), and preferably two years at a site with extensive underground mine workings with multiple entry portals, to clarify bat usage of the site (Altenbach et al. 2000).  Planning Phase:  During the Planning Phase, the information collected during the Assessment Phase is used to develop a bat management plan for the site. In particular, the presence of a ‘significant roost’ in the area should trigger the development of a Protection Plan for the roost. In general, a Protection Plan should be developed if the planned activity is within the following thresholds (adapted from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2009): • 16 kilometres of an occupied hibernaculum of a bat species of conservation concern; or • 8 kilometres of an occupied hibernaculum of an unlisted bat species, or a female/juvenile capture location of a listed bat species; or  • 4 kilometres of any other significant roost.  Note that, given the difficulty in assessing the species using the site and obtaining an accurate count of individuals, the BMPs recommend that all unsurveyed mines are treated as potential bat habitat during activity planning whether or not bats are confirmed to use the site.  A significant roost is defined as:  • Any hibernaculum or swarming site; 75  • A roost used by a nursery colony of a Red- or Blue-listed species (any number of individuals), or a nursery roost used by more than six females of other species (can include mixed species groups); • a roost used by a maternity colony of Red- or Blue-listed species (any number of bats), or a maternity roost used by more than four females of other species (can include mixed species groups); • Any permanent-type day roost used by a male or a non-reproductive female of a Red- or Blue-listed species, or > 10 males/non-reproductive females/juveniles of other species (can include mixed species groups); • Any night roost used by a Red- or Blue-listed species or > 10 bats of other species (can include mixed species groups);  • Any regularly-used roost of a species listed under Schedule 1 of SARA (any number of individuals); or, • Any roost deemed significant by an experienced bat biologist.  Protection Plan –Avoidance: When a significant roost or other important bat habitat is identified at the site, proponents are encouraged to plan their activities to limit impacts on bats and bat habitat. The most effective method of retaining important bat habitat is to avoid damaging the habitat and/or to conduct activities when bats are not present. When mines are reactivated, negative effects on bats can be minimized by setting appropriate buffers around roosts (spatial avoidance), and by setting appropriate timing windows for activities (temporal avoidance). For mine closures, all activities should be conducted when bats are not using the feature (temporal avoidance). Timing windows depend on the expected Figure 1. Recommended buffer sizes around significant bat roosts. 76  season of bat use of the feature. Where the feature is used in summer, activities should occur between October and April. Where the feature is used in winter, activities should occur between May and August.  The recommended buffer size for activities is influenced by the expected level of disturbance and the type of bat use of the feature. Placing buffers (Figure 1) around significant roosts can mitigate mining impacts. Recommended buffers include a 100-m core area around the roost complex as defined during the Assessment phase, and an additional 1-km special management zone outside the core area. Within the core area, development activities should be highly restricted. In the special management zone, some low- and medium-impact activities may be permitted during work timing windows (Table 2).   Table 2. Three levels of disturbance (low, medium and high) to bats and their habitats (adapted from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development 2011). Level of Disturbance Examples Acceptability of disturbance Low impact disturbances are infrequent, habitat is not modified by the activities, and the duration of the activity is relatively short (i.e., hours).  Land surveying  Trail users (hiking) especially where trails traverse areas of winter use such as talus slopes, or rock outcrops • Extra caution should be used immediately adjacent to the roost (< 50 m). • Acceptable in the 100-m core area within appropriate timing windows • Acceptable in the 1-kilometre special management zone all year. Medium impact disturbances are usually high in frequency, may use vehicles and other equipment, and may involve small habitat modifications and the duration is relatively long (i.e., days).   Seismic drilling  Recreational trail construction   Not acceptable in the 100-m core area during the occupied period.   May be acceptable in the 100-m core area when bats are not occupying the site and where the activity does not degrade the habitat (upon review by an experienced bat biologist).  Acceptable in the 1 km special management zone within the appropriate timing window. 77  High impact activities generally involve disturbances that are high in frequency, involve vehicles and machinery, permanently modify the habitat by altering vegetation, soils, geomorphology and perhaps hydrology, and the impact is long term (i.e., more than 10 years).  Construction  Blasting  Burning  Forest harvesting  Use of heavy equipment  Land clearing  Excavation  Road building  Recreational trail users (snowmobiling)  Not acceptable in the 100-m core area except when installing bat-friendly gating within suggested timing windows.  May be acceptable in the 1-km special management zone (with review by an experienced bat biologist); activities should occur within the appropriate timing windows:  Blasting activities: At all times, ensure that the roost habitat is not degraded. Optimally, blasting should occur during periods when bats are not occupying the roost. If blasting is to occur during the occupied period, either ensure sound concussion of less than 150 decibels and that shock wave is less than 15 p.s.i. and the peak particle velocity is less than 15 mm/second (MFLNRO 2014) or maintain a setback of 2 kilometres from occupied significant roost sites (Delaney 2002, M. Davis pers. comm.).   In addition to management around roost sites, the best management practices document includes guidelines for tree harvesting, placing work buffers around wetlands, suggestions to prevent pollution of water, and methods to minimize erosion. The focus of the BMPs is on retaining suitable and important bat habitat within the management area around mine sites.  Protection Plan - Mitigation: In most cases, it will not be possible to avoid all impacts to bats and bat habitats. The mitigation phase is where measures are implemented to control, reduce, or eliminate potentially adverse impacts of a project, and may include restorative measures (Environmental Assessment Office 2003). Implementation of mitigation measures should follow the mitigation hierarchy procedures of the B.C. Ministry of Environment (B.C. Ministry of Environment 2012; B.C. Ministry of Environment 2014b).  One important mitigation measure that can be implemented when closing mines is to install bat-friendly gates at mine entrances. Gates prevent human access to mines, but when properly installed, can maintain bat usage of the feature. Any gating should involve an experienced bat biologist as well as an experienced bat-gate specialist to ensure that the gate is properly designed to maintain airflows and access for the bat species using the site.   Other measures to mitigate mining impacts on bats include replacing lost summer roosting habitat with alternate habitat, such as bat boxes, artificial roost trees that simulate trees with loose bark (Dillingham et al. 2003; Adams et al. 2015) and the creation of rock roosts using specifications suitable for the geographical location, with input from a bat specialist. These types of habitat creation may not be appropriate at an industrial scale; however, artificial roosts may provide solutions in specific situations.   78  Protection Plan – Compensation: Not every mine site is critical for bat conservation (Tuttle and Taylor 1998). Effective bat conservation planning conducted at a landscape-level scale could result in trade-offs and compensation outside the development footprint (Racey and Entwistle 2003, Miner and Stoker 2005). Based on existing vegetation, human development, and land use in each specific area, resource managers may decide to allow development or resource extraction closer to the core area than recommended in Table 2, with a ‘trade-off’ agreement to protect an alternate, high priority (perhaps because of the bat species present), or vulnerable (perhaps because the site is very accessible to humans and possible vandalism) site outside the development footprint. Trade-offs may not be an option in all cases, particularly where there is a significant roost, but can be considered where appropriate. For example, if it is impractical to remediate or enhance wetlands and ponds in the development area, a proponent could propose the approach of “no net loss” and protect, enhance, or remediate wetland, riparian, or pond habitat in other areas such that the total area of wildlife habitat within the landscape unit does not decrease, but is maintained or increased. By sharing information and considering cumulative effects amongst all resource sector proponents within a landscape unit, opportunities for trade-offs can be identified that can result in more effective conservation actions (B.C. Ministry of Environment 2014a). This approach not only leads to better management and conservation of bats, it can also make economic sense. Note that, where compensation is identified as a conservation action, a broad-scale, long-term, scientifically-rigorous monitoring program should be implemented to ensure that wildlife species are not detrimentally affected by these alternative management practices.  SUMMARY Mine sites provide important roosting habitat for many species of bats in the province. Altering the mine itself or surrounding habitat during mine re-activation or closing activities can destroy or degrade winter and summer roosting habitat as well as foraging habitat. 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