The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) recently announced that it is reopening the comment period on its proposal to list the Northern Long-Eared Bat (NLEB) as endangered.
The public comment period has now been extended for the third time from Nov. 18, 2014 to Dec. 18, 2014, although the deadline for FWS to make a final decision on listing the NLEB remains April 2, 2015.
The acknowledged principal threat to the NLEB is a disease called “white nose syndrome.” Although the FWS concluded that forestry activities alone were not a cause for listing the NLEB, FWS nonetheless issued non-binding guidelines in 2013 that recommended sharply curtailing forestry activities throughout the vast range of the NLEB. These guidelines could become permanent, either in whole or in part, if the NLEB were to be listed.
FWS stated that it was reopening the comment period to allow the submission of public views on new information received from state agencies within the range of the NLEB. The agencies providing this new information include the: Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Southern Group of State Foresters and Northeastern Area Association of State Foresters (the State Agencies). These agencies are based in states where FWS believes the greatest decline in the NLEB population has occurred and have direct experience with the species.
All of the State Agencies opposed FWS’s proposed listing of the NLEB as an endangered species, and submitted new information supporting their position. Some of the State Agencies agreed that a listing of the NLEB as “threatened” was appropriate, while other of the State Agencies took no position on the issue. Yet, all of the State Agencies agreed that if the species were listed as threatened, FWS should also exempt certain activities from the definition of “take” under the ESA. (The ESA’s prohibition on take precludes anyone from, among other things, killing, wounding, harming or harassing a listed species.)
Specifically, the State Agencies recommended that forest management activities for which best management practices have been developed should be exempted from the definition of take. Indeed, the State Agencies presented information indicating that the wide varieties of habitats resulting from forest management are beneficial to the NLEB.
For more information, visit U.S Fish and Wildlife Service website.