The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it is protecting the northern long-eared bat as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), primarily due to the threat posed by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has devastated many bat populations.
At the same time, the Service issued an interim special rule that eliminates unnecessary regulatory requirements for landowners, land managers, government agencies and others in the range of the northern long-eared bat. The public is invited to comment on this interim rule as the Service considers whether modifications or exemptions for additional categories of activities should be included in a final 4(d) rule that will be finalized by the end of the calendar year. The Service is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until July 1, 2015 and may make revisions based on additional information it receives.
“Bats are a critical component of our nation’s ecology and economy, maintaining a fragile insect predator-prey balance; we lose them at our peril,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Without bats, insect populations can rise dramatically, with the potential for devastating losses for our crop farmers and foresters. The alternative to bats is greater pesticide use, which brings with it another set of ecological concerns.”
In the United States, the northern long-eared bat is found from Maine to North Carolina on the Atlantic Coast, westward to eastern Oklahoma and north through the Dakotas, reaching into eastern Montana and Wyoming. Throughout the bat’s range, states and local stakeholders have been some of the leading partners in both conserving the long-eared bat and addressing the challenge presented by white-nose syndrome.
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