U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Special Rule to Focus Protections for Northern Long-Eared Bat
Rule Would Apply if Species is Listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act
For Immediate Release
January 15, 2015
In response to the rapid and severe decline of the northern long-eared bat – a species important for crop pest control – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a special rule under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that would provide the maximum benefit to the species while limiting the regulatory burden on the public.
If finalized, the rule, under section 4(d) of the ESA, would apply only in the event the Service lists the bat as “threatened.” The Service’s proposal will appear in the Federal Register Jan. 16, 2015, opening a 60-day public comment period.
“White-nose syndrome is having a devastating effect on the nation’s bat populations, which play a vital role in sustaining a healthy environment and save billions of dollars by controlling forest and agricultural pests,” said Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius. “We need to do what we can to make sure we are putting commonsense protections in place that support vulnerable bat species but are targeted to minimize impact on human activities. Through this proposed 4(d) rule, we are seeking public comment on how we can use the flexibilities inherent in the ESA to protect the bat and economic activity.”
The Service proposed to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered under the ESA in October 2013 and is due to make a final decision by April 2, 2015. The Service’s options include listing the species as endangered; listing as threatened; listing as threatened with a 4(d) rule; and withdrawing the proposal to list.
“While we originally proposed the northern long-eared bat as endangered, the ongoing scientific review of threats to the species could possibly lead to a final listing determination of threatened rather than endangered,” Melius added. “Although a final listing decision has not yet been made, we believe we can best serve the American people by proposing and seeking comment on a potential 4(d) rule now, so if we determine listing as threatened with a 4(d) rule is appropriate, the rule can be implemented immediately.”
Bat populations have declined sharply across the country due to white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease affecting cave-hibernating bats. Some human activities also impact these species, particularly close to their hibernation caves, creating heightened challenges for bat populations already weakened by disease.
The northern long-eared bat is found in the United States from Maine to North Carolina on the Atlantic Coast, westward to eastern Oklahoma and north through the Dakotas, reaching into eastern Montana and Wyoming. In some caves in the Northeast, northern long-eared bat populations have declined by up to 99 percent. White-nose syndrome or the fungus causing the disease is found in much of the northern long-eared bat’s range.