Defenders of Wildlife Demands Endangered Species Protection for Bats
Released by Haley McKey, defenders.org
Defenders of Wildlife filed suit May 12, 2016, against the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for denying the northern long-eared bat full protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Once abundant in the core of its range in the northeastern US and Canada, the northern long-eared bat has been devastated by white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease which infects the hibernating bats’ caves. First detected in upstate New York in 2006, white-nose syndrome has spread rapidly across the country, decimating vulnerable bat species as it goes. There is no known treatment or cure for white-nose syndrome, nor is there evidence that individual northern long-eared bats can survive infection for multiple years.
FWS originally proposed to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered in 2013, but in the face of tremendous political pressure from the timber and oil and gas industries reversed its proposal and listed the species as threatened instead. FWS’ own analysis found the species to be in danger of extinction throughout its entire range, a danger heightened by the cumulative effects of habitat destruction and disturbance. FWS acknowledges that white-nose syndrome will spread to the fringes of the species range in eight to thirteen years, but has ignored the reality that almost all of the remaining population is within portions of the range likely to be devastated within just a few years.
Listing the bat as threatened rather than endangered enabled FWS to issue an extremely lenient “special 4(d) rule” with regard to “incidental take,” meaning unintentional harm, harassment or death of northern long-eared bats. The special 4(d) rule exempted most habitat-destroying activities from regulation in all but the narrowest of circumstances, leaving northern long-eared bats vulnerable to loss of their summer roosting and foraging habitat and winter hibernation habitat. An endangered species listing would provide greater legal protections, helping to prevent these losses and ensuring that the surviving bats have the best possible chance of escaping extinction.
In a statement by Defenders of Wildlife Senior Staff Attorney Jane Davenport, she says:
“The northern long-eared bat is in imminent danger of extinction from white-nose syndrome across its entire range. This situation is an emergency and needs to be treated as such by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. FWS’ reversal of their proposal to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered is irresponsible.
“This bat needs the full extent of the protection the ESA provides, and threatened status simply isn’t enough. It’s time for FWS to step up and give the northern long-eared bat the endangered species protections it desperately needs.”
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.