Northern long-eared bat federally listed as a threatened species

Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it was designating the northern long-eared bat as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, primarily due to the threat posed by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has affected many bat populations in North America. The listing becomes effective on May 4, 2015.

The northern long-eared bat occurs in 37 US states and 13 Canadian provinces. In the final rule, the Service indicates that, it cannot designate critical habitat for the northern long-eared bat at this time because of insufficient information.

The final rule includes an interim special rule under authority of Section 4(d) of the ESA that prohibits purposeful “take” of (i.e., causing harm to) northern long-eared bats throughout the species’ range except for removal of the bats from human dwellings and authorized capture and handling of the species by permitted individuals.

The interim 4(d) rule treats “incidental” take (i.e., unintentional harm to the bats as a result of otherwise lawful activities) differently depending on whether it occurs in a white-nose syndrome “buffer zone” (where the disease or the fungus has been detected) or outside it. In areas not affected by white-nose syndrome, incidental take is not prohibited. In areas affected by white-nose syndrome, however, forest management practices and a limited number of other land use activities will not be considered by the Service to result in incidental “take” if those activities are conducted in accordance with the following measures:

“(i) Occur more than 0.25 mile (0.4 kilometer) from a known, occupied hibernacul[um];

(ii) Avoid cutting or destroying known, occupied roost trees during the pup season (June 1–July 31); and

(iii) Avoid clearcuts (and similar harvest methods, e.g., seed tree, shelterwood, and coppice) within 0.25 mile (0.4 kilometer) of known, occupied roost trees during the pup season (June 1–July 31).

The Service recommends that managers consult their local state wildlife agency, state Natural Heritage database, and Service Ecological Services field office for help identifying the best current sources of information about specific locations of “known roosts” and “known hibernacula.” The Service also states that the “conversion of mature hardwood, or mixed, forest into intensively managed monoculture pine plantation stands, or non-forested landscape, is not exempted under this interim rule, as typically these types of monoculture pine plantations provide poor-quality bat habitat.”

More information about the listing of the northern long-eared bat, links to the final rule, and a map of the white-nose syndrome “buffer zone” are available at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/mammals/nlba/.

The final rule listing the species as threatened was published in the Federal Register on April 2, 2015 (Vol. 80, No. 63, pp. 17974 – 18033). The Service has opened a 90-day public comment period on the interim 4(d) rule, and will accept comments received or postmarked on or before July 1, 2015.

  

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