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For Immediate Release, February 18, 2008

Contact: Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 434-2388

Conservation Groups Petition Fish and Wildlife Service for Emergency
Actions to Save Imperiled Bats From Deadly New Disease;

Threat to Bats Called the Gravest Ever

RICHMOND, Vt. Citing a threat to bats from a new disease that is widespread, severe, and imminent, conservation organizations today petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for immediate action to prevent further harm to endangered bats.

State wildlife agencies have reported that tens of thousands of bats are dying from an unknown malady informally known as “white-nose syndrome.” It was first discovered last year in four bat hibernating caves in New York. This year, the fungus has been observed on bats at virtually every significant bat hibernation site in New York, along with one cave in Vermont. Biologists throughout the Northeast have been scrambling to determine the extent and source of the die-off.

Conservation organizations are asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to pull permits for federal projects that will harm imperiled bats and to close bat hibernation sites to the public.

“Logging, burning, road building — all these actions harm endangered bats,” said Mollie Matteson, public lands advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “With the deadly specter of white-nose syndrome looming over these vulnerable species, the government simply cannot carry on business as usual.”

White-nose syndrome is known to afflict and kill several different species of North American bats, but the conservationists’ interests focus on the threat to four endangered species: gray bats, Indiana bats, Ozark big-eared bats, and Virginia big-eared bats. In total, the bats range from New Hampshire to Arkansas and Michigan to Florida.

Despite the dire threat, federal agencies continue to implement projects that will harm endangered bats. The organizations simultaneously submitted petitions to the Federal Highway Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, Tennessee Valley Authority, and the U.S. Forest Service to immediately stop implementation of any project that will further imperil the endangered bats that are being harmed by white-nose syndrome.

Matteson concluded: “We know the Fish and Wildlife Service needs money to study the causes of white-nose syndrome. But logging, burning, and road-building in endangered bat habitat needs to stop now. Bats are dying and need protection immediately.”

The petition was written by the Center for Biological Diversity and endorsed by Heartwood and Friends of Blackwater Canyon.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 40,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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