FORT DRUM, N.Y. (AP) State engineers plotting a highway connector from Interstate 81 to the main gate at Fort Drum said they will make concessions to protect the Indiana bats that live in its path.
Indiana bats are a federally protected endangered species.
The Indiana bat resides mainly in Indiana. But of the roughly 240,000 in existence, scientists estimate that more than 20,000 roost in upstate New York, including in the woods surrounding the northern New York Army post.
Construction of the 5-mi.-long connector is scheduled to begin this winter and to be completed by the end of 2012.
Because the new highway will run through a pristine tract, planners had to take steps to reduce the $106 million project’s impact on the environment, said DOT spokesman Michael Flick.
To protect the Indiana bats, DOT worked with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to come up with a series of measures, he said.
“On all of our projects we take a look at what’s out there,’’ Flick said. “We do our best not to disturb or damage wetlands or habitat area.’’
Protection efforts include:
• Clearing trees in the winter, when the bats hibernate in caves and won’t be injured.
• Planting a 4,200-ft. hedgerow to replace patches of vegetation that will be removed along the length of the roadway. The bats often use trees and hedgerows for cover as they travel and feed.
• Leaving a 40- to 50-ft, forested area along the edge of state right of way, which is usually cleared to make the road safer for motorists. The buffer will preserve 21 acres of forest. The department will install guardrails along the edges of the road to compensate for the narrower shoulders.
• Acquiring 135 acres of forested land for preservation.