Raccoon River Sand helps keeps local bat species safe

Endangered bat finds protected habitat at Martin Marietta sand plant

When looking out on the grounds of Raccoon River Sand, it may not make sense why so many unhealthy trees have been left standing. These trees are old, unattractive and, in many cases, dead. 

But these are exactly the conditions in which some flying mammals, specifically the Indiana bat, thrive. 

The Indiana bat is native to North America, living primarily in the southern and midwestern United States. The animal has a particular preference for the trees and pests at the aggregates operation in West Des Moines, Iowa. 

The bat – averaging 1-2 inches in length and weighing 0.16 - 0.34 ounces – hibernates year round in hardwood pine forests, mainly eating insects such as moths, beetles and mosquitoes. 

Since 1967, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Indiana bat as endangered. 

Despite this status and a multitude of protective measures put in place as a result, the Indiana bat has seen severe population decline. In the past decade alone, the population is believed to have decreased by more than half. 

This startling statistic is why Martin Marietta local team members wanted to ensure they could take meaningful steps to help protect these animals. 

Senior Environmental Engineer James Marek says the company has preserved 25 acres of woodlands with cottonwoods, shagbark hickory, hackberry and silver maple since discovering the bats were present on the site. 

Marek said the team has partnered with multiple groups to ensure the process was handled properly. 

“We have been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Rock Island District (USACE), U. S. Fish and Wildlife and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources,” he says. “Because of this teamwork, Martin Marietta has been able to dedicate a section of land on the ground to make sure the trees remain unbothered so the bats can remain safe in their habitats.” 

While this preservation effort is important to the Indiana bat, it is also providing additional habitat for the Silver-haired bat, the Hoary bat, the Northern long-eared bat and several other species, Marek says, noting that such work is an essential element in Martin Marietta’s commitment to environmental stewardship. 

“Practicing conservation to minimize our environmental impact is an important aspect of our business,” he says. “These trees will remain as habitat, and we hope these bats will come and go as they desire. They will always be welcomed visitors to Raccoon River Sand.”