How ironic that during the Year of the Bat, the Shawnee National Forest would propose a land exchange in which the Forest Service would trade away a 384-acre tract of land with a known endangered bat species to Peabody Coal, Co. for a strip mine! An Indiana bat maternity roost was found on the parcel and the endangered gray bat was also detected there.
A diamond in the rough, the Gallatin County parcel is one of the Shawnee’s best-kept secrets. Located just a few miles south of Shawneetown on the Saline River, it takes only one visit to this beautiful piece of land to know that it is providing critical habitat in a part of the state that has seen more than its fair share of human disturbance.
“The single-most important factor that leads to endangerment and extinction of species– and the one the Forest Service has the greatest influence over—is the alteration and loss of habitats.” US Forest Service, Threatened, Endangered & Sensitive Species Program.
In the proposed exchange the Forest Service would trade a parcel of approximately 384 acres in size for three tracts of ALH land, which adjoin FS land in Pope and Jackson Counties.
The federal parcel is entirely forested with bottomland and upland hardwoods, including swamp chestnut oak, American elm, red maple, sweetgum, maple, ash, tulip tree and the Forest’s largest and highest quality cherrybark oaks. It’s rare to find such a diverse bottomland forest habitat within the Saline River watershed, which is constantly being bombarded with clearing, mining, ditching and draining. Canoeist and anglers enjoy recreating in this section of the Saline River, while hikers, bird watchers and hunters enjoy the beautiful woodland.
The natural wonders alone should be ample reason for the Forest Service to hang on to this parcel, but the discovery of federally-endangered Indiana and gray bats should stop the swap. This past summer, gray bats were detected and one Indiana bat maternity roost was found on the site and 2 more maternity sites were found on FS land very near by. These are the only known Indiana bat maternity roosts known on the eastern half of the Forest.
The proposed land swap is in complete violation of the Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act requires the Forest Service to “use all methods and procedures which are necessary” to preserve endangered species. The Forest Service is required by law to give the highest priority to the protection and recovery of endangered species.
The Shawnee National Forest is seeking scoping comments on this proposal to swap land-for-land with American Land Holdings (ALH), a subsidiary of Peabody Coal, Co. Let your voice be heard–take action here!