Submitted by Gretchen Baker, Ecologist
for Inside Earth Newsletter, Summer 2017
The Lehman Caves Management Plan has been finished and is waiting for Management Team review. Following that, it will be available for public comment. This plan identifies the desired future condition for the cave, including installing lint curbs, replacing the electrical system, elevating parts of the trail that block hydrologic connections, restoring natural airflow by the West Room, adding different types of cave tours, and making a virtual tour of the cave.
The Wild Caves and Karst Management Plan is in final draft stage and is undergoing staff review. This plan covers all 39 known caves in the park. It identifies data gaps and management issues as well as identifies caves that could be open for recreational use.
A dedicated three-person bat crew has been hired for the summer. Bat surveys in and near caves are ongoing, including internal, mistnetting, and acoustical techniques. In addition, a PIT tag reader has been installed at the natural entrance of Lehman as well as a cave just outside park boundaries. Over 20 bats have already been seen in Lehman Caves, reinforcing the thought that bats are re-finding the cave after it was closed for nearly a hundred years. In 1998, a bat-friendly cupola was installed over the natural entrance, and gradually more bats are being seen in the cave. Cave guides have been instructed to tell their tours to be quiet when passing under the natural entrance to minimize disturbance.
Quarterly biomonitoring of Lehman Caves continues, and an analysis of 10 years of data is under review, with the hopes of publishing a peer-reviewed publication in the next year. A cave climate change study is underway, with temperature and humidity dataloggers deployed in more than 20 caves over a variety of elevations.