U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Protects Northern Long-eared Bat as Threatened Under Endangered Species Act
For Also Issues Interim Special Rule that Tailors Protections to Eliminate Unnecessary Restrictions and ProvideRegulatory Flexibility for Landowners
For Immediate Release
April 1, 2015
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.
“Michigan and other states collaboratively worked to provide critical information as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service evaluated the status of the northern long-eared bat,” said Keith Creagh, Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “The decision to list the bat as threatened with an interim 4(d) rule represents a biologically sound determination that will address the conservation needs of these bats while providing flexibility for those who live and work within the bats’ range. Looking ahead, we expect to continue working closely with the Service as we focus on finding the right solutions to this conservation challenge.”
The Service proposed the northern long-eared bat as “endangered” in October 2013 following severe population declines that have seen the species disappear from some traditional hibernation sites. However, during its review, the Service determined the northern long-eared bat meets the definition of “threatened.” Under the Act, an endangered species is currently in danger of becoming extinct, while a threatened species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.
“In making this decision, we reviewed the best available scientific information on the northern long-eared bat, including information gathered from more than 100,000 public comments,” said the Service’s Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius. “We are listing this species because a disease – white-nose syndrome – is spreading and decimating its populations. We designed the 4(d) rule to provide appropriate protection within the area where the disease occurs for the remaining individuals during their most sensitive life stages, but to otherwise eliminate unnecessary regulation.”
The listing becomes effective on May 4, 2015, 30 days after publication of the final listing determination in the Federal Register.