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Judge turns up nose at complaint that tours will spread White-Nose Syndrome in Colorado caves

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The Arizona based Center for Biological Diversity has fought numerous battles over the years, opposing everything from expansions of ski areas to oil-drilling ventures, but last week it lost its battle against the White-Nose Syndrome, which sounds like some relic of the Studio 54 days, but is really a fungus that attacks bats.

The CBD had filed a complaint in the United States District Court of Columbia to block the National Speleological Society, a non-profit dedicated to the conservation and exploration of caves, from touring caves at Anvil Points, Dirty Pool and LaSunder in northwest Colorado, which are overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. The CBD was concerned that the tours would further spread the White-Nose Syndrome fungus that's killed more than a million bats in the last five years. But the judge tossed the complaint, allowing the NSS into the caves during its convention in Colorado this week.

"We've been living with White Nose for years," says Peter Youngbaer, the NSS's White-Nose Syndrome liaison. "We know how to deal with it. We know what it does. We decontaminate and keep our gear local." In fact, the NSS even has a White-Nose Syndrome web page that outlines the dangers of the situation, and notes how to take necessary precautions to avoid spreading the fungus.

White-Nose fungus causes the skin on a wing, tail or nose to turn white, which irritates the bat and causes it to display unusual behavior -- including flying around in the winter during hibernation months and huddling in areas of caves where they may not normally be found. The NSS has a web page devoted to educating the public to the hazards of White-Nose Syndrome.

The NSS is holding its annual conference in Glenwood Springs, where the cave tours are an optional part of the program."We're just happy that the ruling went the way it did so people can enjoy those caves while they are out here," Youngbaer said. A Wyoming judge recently gave a break to another endangered species; read "Preble's meadow jumping mouse conquers Wyoming -- again" here.

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