Spring Update
May 12, 2009

Dear NSS Members,

Another tough winter for hibernating bats has come to an end.  White Nose Syndrome was documented to have spread into additional states as far south as the Virginias, and to more sites in previously affected states. We have a lot of news, and some changes and additions to this website we hope you appreciate.  Since our last Update, we have prepared the WNS Information Brochure that we hope you are downloading, printing, copying, and handing out to the general public.

While reports off new WNS sites are likely over for this year, they have been replaced with an increasingly growing list of closed caves.  Although we are clearly not happy to announce it, we have added a Cave Closures feature to this website.   Please help us keep it up to date by sending reports to wnsliaison@caves.org.

On the research front, there is little new to report.  No scientific papers have been published since our last report.  However, we are pleased to bring you a new WNS Research Center here on this web page.  We have incorporated the links to the WNS Rapid Response Fund to make it easier for interested cavers and potential donors to learn about the fund and to make a contribution.  Researchers and others interested in the application and review process can readily check the Application Guidelines.  We have also provided an up to date summary of projects currently funded by the NSS, so you can see where your money is going and how it fits in to the science strategy priorities.

Some good news came last month when a State Wildlife Grant was awarded to a consortium of states working on WNS.  This grant provides $940,000 over two years for a variety of state agencies to pay for staff time, buy equipment, carry out field work, and coordinate activities, including paying for another large gathering of parities working on WNS.  However, most funds will not hit the street until the fall, which is why your donations continue to be needed now.

The SWG also does not fund any of the federal agencies or labs working on WNS, nor provide funding for any of the academic researchers and their labs.  This is why the NSS took the lead in advocating in Congress for emergency funding.  Thanks to all of you who contacted your delegation – it works. Two briefings were held, and 25 Senators and Representatives wrote to Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, asking him to release emergency funds. On June 4, I will be testifying to a joint congressional subcommittee, along with a group of the leading researchers. 

So, what’s next?  On May 27 and 28, an invited corps of scientists will meet in Austin, Texas to develop the next Science Strategy Priorities.  This will guide research and grants for the coming year.  I will be attending and will provide a report.  At the same time, there are a host of task forces working on various parts of the WNS problem.  Most of these grew out of the discussion at the end of the Feb. 20 Webinar we reported on in our WNS Research SummaryThese range from investigating chemical and biological controls for WNS to a group I’ve been asked to chair on cave closures and the reducing the risk of potential of human spread of WNS.  Our charge is to develop a white paper to guide decision-makers – what are the key questions?  What research is necessary to answer these questions?

Finally, we hope to see many of you at the special session on WNS we will be holding at the ICS/NSS Convention in July.  Key investigators and wildlife managers have been invited to share their knowledge, and we plan a very interactive session that will highlight your questions and ideas.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding WNS via e-mail at wnsliaison@caves.org.

Peter Youngbaer
NSS WNS Liaison
NSS 16161