Long- Eared Bats Driving People Batty?

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Bats seem to be an appropriate post-Halloween topic.

I am cross posting this from Ron Roizen’s blog, “Not Without a Fight.”

Here’s a link to Senator John Thune’s piece in the Black Hills Pioneer on the bat.. it turns out that this is the same bat that is also having problems in the East (on private land). The issue seems to be that if something is problematic for a species (say a disease, in this case, but it could be climate change), then everything else that could affect the species needs to be tightened up or stopped. Which may not save the species anyway, because the issue for the species is something quite different than the targeted management. This does not seem very logical to me, so maybe someone can help enlighten me.

Here’s a quote:

In 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reached a secret sue-and-settle agreement with two radical environmental groups to require listing determinations on more than 250 species across the United States, including the northern long-eared bat. Northern long-eared bats are dying at alarming rates in parts of the country due to the spread of white-nose syndrome. Of the 39 states considered prime northern long-eared bat habitat, white-nose syndrome has only been found in 22 states, and has not been found in South Dakota.

Despite the lack of evidence suggesting white nose syndrome is a problem in our state, the FWS has proposed limiting forest management in the Black Hills to preserve the bats habitat. Unfortunately, these proposed regulations don’t address the real problem—eradicating white nose syndrome. Instead of dealing with the problem at hand, the FWS’s proposal will increase the potential for large scale wildfires, risk spreading the pine beetle epidemic, and will severely impact the Black Hills timber industry.

On October 14th, I sent a letter to the FWS with Representative Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota) encouraging the agency to withdraw its proposed listing of the northern long-eared bat as endangered and to refocus its attention on combating white-nose syndrome.

7 Comments

  1. While white nose syndrome has not yet been found in Minnesota, the north Star Chapter of the Sierra Club noting the near total elimination of the specie in a very brief time in the NE states, supported the endangered listing. One basis is that so doing can release funds for further study. Our DNR joined with the Indiana and ??? state oppose the endangered listing. We think the proposed forestry rules are not likely to be as hard on the forest industry as they claim. With further study, the window and details of restricted logging may be able to be reduced. The bats’ main winter hibernation location here is a single abandoned mine so application of a treatment, if one is found, could be fairly simple; but also if the disease comes here, it would likely devastate the population in short order.

  2. Funny you should bring this one up . . .

    I recently completed some work for a client on the proposed Northern long-eared bat (NLEB) listing. USFWS has really gone off-base on this one, in a most egregious fashion. They are attempting to quantify NLEB populations using counts taken in winter hibernacula. The problem is that the NLEB hibernates in crevices, and thus does not offer itself well to being counted in hibernacula. It also hibernates in small clusters, unlike many other bats, thus making itself less vulnerable to white nose syndrome (WNS) transmission. This has led USFWS to severely undercount the NLEB populations throughout its range.

    When you do the more scientifically supportable thing, and quantify NLEB populations using summer mist netting, you very much get a picture of a very robust population of NLEB range-wide, including in those areas where WNS is already present and hammering other bat species quite severely.

    The NLEB proposed listing is now in a process extension because of “new” information being brought forward disputing many of the USFWS assertions. The problem is that the information is not all that new . . . much of it is available from multiple state wildlife agencies, who have been forced to resort to submitting their population date via public comment because USFWS failed to comply with its mandates to go to the relevant state and local governments throughout the NLEB range to solicit any information they may have concerning the health of the species.

    That means that not only is USFWS attempting to list the NLEB based on erroneous information, but also that it has failed to comply with numerous statutory and administrative mandates, as well as failing to comply with the mandates of several presidential executive orders along the way.

    Something else sideways about the settlement agreement(s) that hikes my eyebrows up to me receding hairline . . .

    At the time of the settlement agreement(s), there were the above-noted 250-some species on the USFWS candidate list. By the time the legal stuff was over and done, USFWS had willingly taken on the responsibility of making listing decisions on 757 species prior to the end of 2018. The agency accepted this knowing that they didn’t even have sufficient budget and other resources to handle the species on the candidate list and be able to make a well-reasoned and scientifically supportable decision.

    Maybe they expected Congress would increase their budget to meet the terms of the agreement(s)? Didn’t happen, and so that leaves us with a whole raft of poorly researched decisions, many of which will not withstand judicial scrutiny without judges continuing to offer agency discretion on the science and economic analyses.

  3. I probably posted this here before, apologies if so. (paper about potential spread of WNS to the Northwest) http://gknudsenlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/KnudsenWNS.pdf

    I’m a member of the Epidemiological and Ecological Research Working Group of the White-Nose Syndrome National Plan (mostly organized by FWS, but also USFS, USGS, various other agencies and lots of state and university folks also) https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/national-plan/elements-national-plan My personal belief, if I had to bet on it, is that WNS will show up out here sooner or later. Forest management practices do have an effect on bat populations, especially via effects on summer and maternity roosting. And potential species extinction from disease is one of the ways a species gets ESA listed. Some folks think the FWS guidelines for forest management in the face of potential listing for NLEB are excessive, that may be. They’re being pretty conservative, but as things develop the effects on forest practices probably won’t be as drastic as the industry claims (as Jim notes above).

    Nonetheless, management activities that may exacerbate extinction possibility for an imperiled species often get modified, even if they’re not the primary cause of the situation, plenty of examples of that. I don’t think there’s a consensus yet on whether the suggested guidelines will have a big effect or not, if they’re implemented.

  4. Sharon:

    As Guy said, species can be listed for many different reasons. The result of listing is then that anything that may adversely affect the species gets scrutinized. If a particular activity is a minor contributor to the risks to the species it is unlikely to result in jeopardy to the species, and so it won’t be prohibited. (Unfortunately, though, as a species’ condition gets more dire, what were minor impacts can become major.)

    It may still become subject to restrictions based on incidental take. On private lands, take would require approval of a conservation plan that “to the maximum extent practicable, minimizes and mitigates the impacts of such taking.” There can be a lot of room for negotiation here. ESA consultation on public lands may also produce a take statement that requires mitigation.

    I agree that this “small handle” situation can seem unfair when it leads to regulating a minor risk that “may not save the species any way.” But if it may, the law requires us to try. I think we’re getting into uncharted waters a little with climate disruption and exotic competitors and diseases where the best available science may at some point say there’s no hope for survival in the wild. I don’t think ESA formally recognizes that possibility, but if the science supports it, it would probably make a compelling case for an ESA exemption through the Endangered Species Committee (‘God Squad’).

  5. Pacific coast starfish. Doomed. Dying out entirely. Woe is us. And then comes this picture of rocks with tiny little spots all over them: juvenile star fish. By the billions. Somebody has reproductive power and resistance. Now we have to wait and wonder. Will they, too, die.

    And I have to think that the long eared bats either find resistance in their gene pool or they are gone. Pretty simple Darwin, no?

  6. I was one of the people that posted a comment that was well thought out and not a form letter for this specific subject. In my comment I compared the Northern Long Eared Bat to Ash Trees and White Nose Syndrome to the Emerald Ash Borer and asked that if they listed NLEB as endangered that they do the same for all Ash Trees. LOL. What a joke that has been made of the forestry organizations in this country. I wish I could have been around in the hay day but here I am picking up the pieces as the program falls apart, the land burns, the replacement rate is 4 retire 1 is hired, and I’m told I don’t have a chance at a job after 199 undergrad credits. Wife is also a forester and underutilized. Nicholas

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