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New protective rule proposed for the northern long-eared bat

New protective rule proposed for the northern long-eared bat


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has released proposed new protections for the northern long-eared bat, Myotis septentrionalis. The USFWS is currently considering a proposal to list the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and is due to make a final decision by April 2, 2015. Before a final decision is made, the federal agency is seeking comment on the special rule under section 4(d) of the ESA. If finalized, the rule would apply only in the event the bat is listed as “threatened.” The USFWS’s proposal appeared last week in the Federal Register, opening a 60-day public comment period.

“White-nose syndrome (WNS) 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.”

What is a 4(d) rule?

Under the ESA, the USFWS has four options when considering a species listing. These include listing the species as endangered; listing as threatened; listing as threatened with a 4(d) rule; and withdrawing the proposal to list.

For species listed as threatened, the Service may issue a 4(d) rule to provide protections that are deemed necessary and advisable for conservation of the species. Such a rule ensures private landowners and citizens are not unduly burdened by regulations that do not further the conservation of the species and are exempted from take prohibitions when conducting activities that actively benefit the species.

What is proposed under the 4(d) rule for the northern long-eared bat?

The proposed 4(d) rule for this species outlines conservation measures and exemptions that would apply in parts its range says USFWS spokeswoman Georgia Parham.

“These exemptions mostly deal with tree removal practices and other maintenance activities that might remove trees in the range of the northern long-eared bat. They may apply differently over the range of the bat depending on where WNS has made an impact.”

For areas of the country affected by WNS, the new rule would allow incidental take of bats in the following activities, provided these activities protect known maternity roosts and hibernacula.

·forest management practices

·maintenance and limited expansion of transportation and utility rights-of-way

·removal of trees and brush to maintain prairie habitat

·limited tree removal projects

·removal of hazardous trees

·removal of northern long-eared bats from human dwellings

·research-related activities  

Greater restrictions will be put in place from June through to July, protecting northern long-eared bats when they are most vulnerable, including when they occupy hibernacula and during the two-month pup-rearing season. Reduced restrictions will be implemented at all other times.

In parts of the country not affected by WNS, the proposed rule recognizes activities that result in incidental take of bats are not imperiling the species, and all will be exempt from the act’s protections.

Does this mean that a decision has already been made on the proposed listing of the northern long-eared bat under the ESA?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have not made a decision on the listing proposal yet, says Parham. “The reason why we proposed the 4(d) rule at this point is that in the event that we do go with a listing of threatened for the species we would be ready to implement the rule if appropriate at that time. This however does not indicate that we have made that decision yet” explained Parham.  The USFWS will make their final decision on the listing of the northern long-eared bat on April 2, 2015.

The Service is accepting comments on the proposed 4(d) rule through to March 17, 2015. For more information about the northern long-eared bat, the proposed listing and related information, visit the Service’s web site at www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/mammals/nlba.

 
 

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