Nov 22, 2010 3:40 PM by Greg Boyce
It's now easier to view Colorado's largest colony of bats in the San Luis Valley.
The first agreement is a conservation easement that will protect 350 acres of wild mountain lands from future development. Included is the former Orient iron ore mine, the summer roosting site for an estimated 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats. During the months of July and August the bats make a massive flight each evening at sunset from the mine.
The second agreement allows the public the opportunity to view this amazing sight. Orient Land Trust and the Department of Wildlife worked to ensure that the public can use BLM back roads to access a marked hiking trail to the bat roosting site. This agreement also gives the public, including hunters, the right to cross two of the Orient Land Trust properties to gain big game access to thousands of adjoining acres.
"To be able to see the bats and other wildlife is a rare experience and these precious wildlife resources are now available for all to see, forever," said Suzanne Ewy, Executive Director of Orient Land Trust. "Orient Land Trust is honored to work with the Colorado Division of Wildlife."
Rick Basagoitia, Area Wildlife Manager for the Division agrees. "The bat outflight is one of the most unique wildlife spectacles in Colorado," Basagoitia said. "It's hard to appreciate it fully until you see it."
Orient Land Trust is a nonprofit land trust dedicated to the preservation of natural and biological resources, agricultural lands, wildlife habitat, open space, and historic and geologic features of the northern San Luis Valley. Orient Land Trust properties also include an historic hot springs resort, a restored riparian corridor and a working ranch, which are not affected by these agreements.
The Orient Mine operated from the mid-1800s until 1932 and was abandoned in 1938. The large bat population has occupied the mine for more than 30 years.