Environmental Stewardship: Bats, Buildings and Bulldozers
As builders, we have several levels of responsibility—to our customers, to the communities in which we work and to the environment. It takes 360 vision to orchestrate a major development project. In addition to design and land acquisition, securing permits and financing and addressing zoning issues, we must ensure we are cognizant of an array of environmental protections and regulations that can impact construction sites and schedules.
Case in Point: Protecting the Indiana Bat
Listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1967, the mouse-eared Indiana bat may be quite small, but it has our attention! Weighing in at just a quarter of an ounce (about the weight of three pennies) and measuring around two inches head to toe, they hibernate during the winter. But during the summer months—construction’s busiest season—their maternity colonies venture out to roost in wooded habitats, under the exfoliating bark of large dead and/or dying trees.
Found throughout most of the eastern United States, more than half of the Indiana bat population has dropped since 1975. Consequently, under the authority of the federal Endangered Species Act, regulations have been put in place to protect it.
When planning new construction, builders work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field offices before clearing land that could potentially house Indiana bat habitats. Forwarding the Service a project description—GPS coordinates, a map of the project layout and how much land would be cleared, the field office will provide a “technical assistance review” that assesses the possible implications of clearing the land and then works with the developer to minimize impact to the Indiana bat.
Upon review, the Service might recommend “seasonal clearing,” between October 1 and March 31, when the bats are in hibernation. If that timing is infeasible, in order to clear trees during the bats’ annual roosting season, from April 1 through September 30, the Service would need to conduct a survey to determine if any Indiana bats live within the construction site. If not, clearing trees and brush can safely be done. Coordinating this effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is key.
Vulnerable to disturbance, Indiana bats are beneficial and important components of our ecosystem, eating many night-flying insects, including crop pests. Saving them preserves other species as well. Our challenge as an industry and as responsible environmental stewards is to ensure our sensitivity to and compliance with these and other environmental protections without affecting our project quality, costs or schedules.
Indiana Bat Facts
- Listed as Endangered Species since 1967
- Weight: one-quarter ounce
- Length: About two inches
- Color: Dark-brown to black
- Wingspan: Nine to 11 inches
- Lifespan: Five to 10 years average
- Hibernate: October through March
- Roost: April through September
Bat Appreciation Day