Lexington “Business Park” would impact forested habitat of endangered bat species

LEXINGTON, Ky.–In a contentious move set to be discussed at Tuesday’s Urban County Council Work Session, Mayor Linda Gorton’s Chief Development Officer, Kevin Atkins, has proposed the removal of forested bat habitat to make way for the new Legacy Business Park.

This initiative would necessitate the removal of 2.5 acres of forested land, a critical habitat for the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and the vulnerable Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis). These bats, essential for ecological balance, are already facing threats from habitat destruction and diseases like white-nose syndrome.

Legacy Business Park Impacts to Forested Bat Habitat Rev (LFUCG)

The plan includes a mitigation strategy, involving a financial contribution to the Kentucky National Lands Trust’s Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund. This approach, as outlined in a memo dated January 9, 2024, seeks to balance the economic aspirations of the Legacy Business Park project with the pressing need to conserve local wildlife, especially species at risk.

bluesheet memo – Legacy Business Park – Habitat Mitigation 20240109 (LFUCG)

Some environmentalists and bat conservation experts, however, argue that financial compensation cannot replace the loss of natural habitats. These bats play a crucial role in pest control and pollination within Kentucky’s ecosystems. The loss of such habitats could have far-reaching consequences beyond the immediate area.

The decision now lies in the hands of the Urban County Council, who must weigh the economic benefits of the proposed business park against the potential environmental impacts. With the fate of these forested bat habitats hanging in the balance, the council’s decision will be a significant indicator of Lexington’s commitment to environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation.

As the community awaits the council’s decision, the debate reveals a broader challenge faced by cities nationwide: how to foster economic growth while preserving the natural environment and biodiversity, essential for a healthy ecosystem.

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Paul Oliva is the Lexington Times Editor Emeritus. He grew up in Lexington.