Northern Long-Eared Bats Proposed for Endangered Species Protection



PORTLAND, Ore.— In a reversal of a previous “threatened” listing that exempted destruction of the northern long-eared bat’s habitat from protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued a proposal to list the bat as endangered. This change in legal status will afford the species far greater protection under the Endangered Species Act as it struggles to survive in the face of devastating white-nose syndrome and human development.

Northern long-eared bats, found in 37 states and eight Canadian provinces, have experienced dramatic population declines of 99% since 2006, when white-nose syndrome first appeared in upstate New York.

Following a 2010 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Service proposed to list the species as endangered in 2013. Under tremendous industry pressure, the Service reversed course and listed the species as threatened in 2015, with a “special rule” that exempted almost all activities that destroy the bat’s habitat and harm individual bats. Today’s decision follows a successful lawsuit by the Center, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Coal River Mountain Watch and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition to overturn the threatened listing that allowed that special rule.

“Providing full protection to northern long-eared bats is a crucial step in preventing these unique and useful creatures from going extinct,” said Ryan Shannon, a staff attorney at the Center. “This decision finally acknowledges the dire situation facing these bats. Without greater shelter under the Endangered Species Act, they’ll likely go extinct.”

White-nose syndrome, caused by a fungus originating in Europe, also affects 11 other North American bat species. Biologists consider the fungus to be the most severe wildlife disease outbreak in history. As bat numbers dwindle, insect pest problems increase — with the potential to cause billions of dollars’ worth of agricultural damage.

Northern long-eared bats are distinguishable from their close relatives by their long ears. They live in mature interior forests and forage along wooded hillsides and ridgelines. Because of this, they’re vulnerable to forest fragmentation from logging, oil and gas drilling and other development. Wind energy-related mortality from direct collisions with turbines is also a significant stressor.

The Service has thus far refused to protect any critical habitat for northern long-eared bats.


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