U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Prepare Environmental Impact Statement
Endangered Bat Conservation Plan for Indiana State Forests
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will collect information during a scoping period to evaluate the impacts of a proposed plan to conserve endangered Indiana and gray bats on state forest lands in Indiana. The resulting Environmental Impact Statement/Habitat Conservation Plan will be developed in response to an application from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for an "incidental take" permit under the Endangered Species Act for activities on forest lands that may affect the two species.
In a notice published June 27, 2005 in the Federal Register, the Service outlined the IDNR's proposed alternative, along with two other alternatives that will be analyzed in the document. The public is invited to provide written comments on the alternatives and issues of concern as the agencies begin to prepare the EIS and plan. Written comments should be received on or before July 27, 2005. The complete Federal Register notice is available below.
The plan to be developed would provide conservation measures for the two bats on 150,000 acres of land managed by the IDNR's Division of Forestry, as well as O'Bannon Woods State Park. The plan would provide conservation measures for the endangered bats while the IDNR carries out forest and recreational management on lands included in the plan. Measures would likely include managing Indiana bat habitat, protecting and maintaining priority hibernation areas for the bats, providing for adequate summer roosting habitat, and increasing the quality and quantity of foraging and maternity habitat on the forested lands.
The Environmental Impact Statement to be developed will focus on a range of issues including the Indiana bat and its habitat; the gray bat and its habitat; other pertinent federal- and state-listed species on state forest lands; game species; impacts on other species of plants and animals; best management practices and water quality; biological diversity of habitat; and other associated concerns.
Once the plan and EIS are developed, the document will be made available in draft form to the public for another comment period. Using comments received at that time, the Service will review and decide whether to issue an incidental take permit to the IDNR. Under the Endangered Species Act, such permits allow the "take" (including harming, harassing or killing) of a specified number of listed species, as long as a plan is in place to conserve the species in the long term.
A draft EIS/Habitat Conservation Plan is expected to be available to the public in late 2005.
For more information or to submit written comments, contact Peter Fasbender, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4056. Comments may be submitted via facsimile to 612-713-5292; or via e-mail to: permitsR3ES@fws.gov. Faxed copies should be followed by a mailed copy to ensure complete submission is received.