Press Release
New Rule for Northern Long-eared Bat Fails to Address the Threat of White-Nose Syndrome

New Rule for Northern Long-eared Bat Fails to Address the Threat of White-Nose Syndrome


 

Bellingen Flyout
Northern long-eared bat, Myotis septentrionalis
Credit: J. Scott Altenbach / Minden Pictures

WASHINGTON D.C.— Opportunities to address White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), the main force driving the imperilment of the threatened northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), were largely ignored under a final rule for the species issued yesterday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Bat Conservation International is extremely disappointed in the final 4d rule for the northern long-eared bat” says Andrew Walker, BCI Executive Director.

“BCI supported a responsible 4d rule tailored to how specific industries impact this bat. The Service’s one-size-fits-all approach provides minimal protection for the bat and fails to take advantage of meaningful proposals from several industries that would have saved the lives of thousands of bats and advance WNS research” Walker said.

Under the final rule hibernacula for the species are protected year-round, with “incidental take”, including harm, harassment or mortality of bats, prohibited within a quarter mile radius. Known maternity colonies in roost trees and all trees within 150 feet are protected only during the two months of the pup-rearing season, June 1 through July 31. As this means important roost trees could be destroyed between seasons, BCI finds this to be inadequate protection of habitat critical to the reproduction of this WNS-decimated species.

The new rule also allows year-round “incidental take” from industry activities such as timber harvest, wind energy production and, oil and gas development in all other habitats. This leaves pregnant and nursing females, juveniles and survivors of WNS unprotected as they forage and migrate to and from roosting sites.

This decision does nothing to address the issue that is driving imperilment, White-Nose Syndrome. BCI worked with industry partners to identify and provide meaningful conservation measures that would help prevent the extinction of the northern long-eared bat said Katie Gillies, BCI Director for Imperiled Species.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to use the best available science and chose not to utilize collaborative efforts which would have ensured real conservation impact in this final 4d rule” she added.

Bellingen Flyout
A close-up of a northern long-eared bat carcass shows evidence of
White-Nose Syndrome Credit: Michael Schirmacher — Bat Conservation
International

Opportunities missed include the voluntary provisions developed by the wind industry to reduce fatalities of northern long-eared bats at wind turbines and provide millions of dollars for WNS research. Heralded as an important step forward by bat conservationists, the USFWS ignored these provisions and a unique opportunity to enhance the survival of the species.

“The wind industry showed real leadership in its conservation proposal to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service” said Walker.

“It’s a huge and unnecessary missed opportunity.”

The northern long-eared bat is not the only species to lose in this new rule. The USFWS decision sets a dangerous precedent for other WNS-impacted species, such as the little brown bat and the tri-colored bat.

“Since only known hibernation and maternity sites enjoy any protections and restrictions under this rule, the decision discourages developers from locating new hibernation and maternity sites for this and potentially other bat species” said Gillies.

“This hampers our ability to identify the very sites of greatest importance for recruitment into struggling populations.”

The northern long-eared bat was first proposed for “endangered” status in 2014, but then downgraded to “threatened” with an interim 4d rule last April.

“We supported a decision of threatened because we believed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could use this listing status to create meaningful and creative solutions that would provide greater sustainable protection for the northern long-eared bat. They have failed to meet this challenge,” said Walker.

Press Contact: Micaela Jemison, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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