You would be wrong.
The latest threat is Texan urban sprawl.
San Antonio, not content with being the seventh-largest city in the country, wants to expand even more.
Bracken Bat Cave, situated just north of San Antonio, houses the world’s largest bat colony, as it has for some 10,000 years. It’s the subterranean summer residence of up to 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats, drawn by the size of the cave to migrate from smaller caves to congregate and give birth.
Much of the land around the cave is owned and protected by Bat Conservation International (BCI). But that hasn’t stopped developer Brad Galo, whose company, Galo Properties, owns a 1,500-acre property south of the cave and plans to create a 3,800-home subdivision to be called Crescent Hills. The land is located directly under the nightly flight path of the massive colony of medium-sized bats.
As reported by NPR, BCI is concerned that permitting thousands of giant houses to be built in this ecologically sensitive area could disturb the bat colony and have devastating consequences. Then of course, there are all the strip malls, gas stations, convenience stores, schools, car repair shops and fast food joints that would accompany those houses.
From The Texas Tribune:
“It’s uncanny how perfectly this development aligns with the bat’s flight path,” said Mylea Bayless, the director of conservation programs for Bat Conservation International.
“If we come in and put high-density development right under the flight path, we’re creating a situation where bats and humans are going to be coming into regular contact.”
The consequences of this development could be dire.
* A single bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour. And it’s not just the skeeters: from March to October, every bat eats its weight in insects each night, including harmful agricultural pests like the Cotton Boll moth. For Bracken Cave bats, that adds up to 100 tons of crop-damaging insects each night. Without this, the impact on regional agriculture would be enormous.
* The bats would hunt probably insects that congregate near the development’s outdoor lighting, near streetlights and porches. They might also find the development’s swimming pools an excellent source of water. Pretty soon, the new residents would start saying that something must be done about the bat problem.
* BCI also fears an increased potential for human exposure to sick bats. Along with that comes the possibility of trespassers in the cave, where dense guano deposits pose a high risk of both poisoning and fire.
* San Antonio gets most of its water from the Edwards Aquifer, and its recharge zone includes the land where Crescent Hills would be located. The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance believes preventing the municipal water system from expanding its infrastructure to Comal County is critical to the aquifer’s future.
* The land around Bracken Cave is also home to the Golden-cheeked Warbler, an endangered finch which breeds only in Central Texas, and a number of other at-risk species.
If this plan succeeds, it will be yet another example of human greed run amok, winning out over conservation, beauty and common sense.
As a climber, I’m used to certain areas being off-limits to climbing, to protect the homes of the creatures living there, whether it’s bats, frogs or eagles.
By contrast, the Galo plan can only bring destruction to the home of these Mexican free-tailed bats.
Outraged by the plan, several conservation groups have joined in opposition to the planned development, but at this point no decision has been made whether or not to green light it.
The sad part is that this is even a debate. Since when does it make sense to erect nearly 4,000 homes adjacent to an extremely crucial bat reserve?
Bracken Cave is considered by many to be one of the wonders of the natural world. How tragic that anyone would even consider for a moment destroying this ecosystem for private profit.
Photo Credit: USFWS Headquarters