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Waterton group receives grant to start new bat stewardship program

A new initiative in Waterton, Alta., aims to protect the resiliency of an endangered bat species.

Association is hoping to do outreach and education about the plight of Little Brown Bats

Little Brown Bats, pictured above, are an endangered species in Canada. (Getty Images)

A new initiative in Waterton, Alta., aims to protect the resiliency of an endangered bat species.

The Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association is starting a new bat stewardship project with the help of a $3,000 grant from outdoor clothing company Patagonia.

Biosphere reserves are unique ecosystems granted protection by UNESCO — Waterton is one of only 18 such sites in Canada.

Nora Manners, the executive director of the Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association, says the grant allows the group to start a project that they've hoped to do for five years.

"There's a number of stressors that affect bat populations, so they've been designated as endangered across Canada," she said. "We're basically just trying to do the best we can to secure the habitat they do have."

Manners said park staff are studying the impact last year's wildfire had on the Little Brown Bat population. Bats are also dealing with other threats like white-nose syndrome, which has killed millions of hibernating bats across North America, and general habitat loss.

Manners said the grant will be used to start outreach and education programs to teach people about important role bats play in the ecosystem and the threats the animals face.

She said grants like this one make a big impact on the organization.

"You always have a laundry list of topics and issues that you want to address, so when something like this comes along it really allows you to move an initiative forward and get it off the ground," she said.

She's also encouraging Albertans to check out citizen science projects like the Alberta Community Bat Program to become more aware of bats colonies in their neighbourhoods — or even to build a roost or bat house themselves.

The association is hosting an event Saturday night to celebrate the award.

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