FWS lists Northern Long-Eared Bat as a threatened species

The US Fish & Wildlife Service designated the Northern Long-Eared Bat (NLEB) a threatened species, but attached an interim special rule that it said eliminates unnecessary regulatory requirements for landowners, land managers, government agencies, and others in the animal’s multistate range. The listing, which becomes effective May 4, is seen by some as FWS’s most restrictive designation to date with the potential to affect a number of US industries, including oil and gas producers.

FWS said the NLEB is threatened by white nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has devastated many bat populations. Its US habitat ranges from Maine to North Carolina on the Atlantic Coast, westward to eastern Oklahoma and north through the Dakotas, and reaching into eastern Montana and Wyoming.

The proposed 4(d) rule recognizes that activities in parts of the country not affected by white nose syndrome that result in incidental takes of the bats are not imperiling the species. FWS will accept comments on the interim rule through July 1.

“We are listing this species because a disease—white-nose syndrome—is spreading and decimating its populations,” FWS Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius said on Apr. 1. “We designed the 4(d) rule to provide appropriate protection within the area where the disease occurs for the remaining individuals during their most sensitive life stages, but to otherwise eliminate unnecessary regulation.”

An Independent Petroleum Association of America official criticized the US Department of the Interior agency’s action. “From day one, [FWS] acknowledged that the greatest threat to the [NLEB] is white nose syndrome, not habitat loss due to human activity,” said Daniel T. Naatz, IPAA’s vice-president of federal resources and political affairs.

“This is the agency’s most restrictive designation to date—potentially affecting a myriad of US industries, including oil and gas producers, wind energy developers, agriculture, and other construction projects planned in regions where the bat habitat exists,” Naatz warned.

US House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said the listing reflects the Obama administration’s misuse of the Endangered Species Act. “The service’s harmful and horrendous approach points to the greater, national obligation to reform and update this outdated law for a 21st century economy,” he said.

“It’s time to put people and species above the dangerous demands of national, big money environmental groups who simply want to stop human development in its tracks,” Bishop said. “In this case, the economic livelihoods of families across 38 states in the East and Midwest are on the line.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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