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For Immediate Release, April 14, 2008

Contact: Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 434-2388 (office), (802) 318-1487 (cell)

Lawsuit Will Be Filed to Protect Endangered Bats
From Deadly White-Nose Syndrome  

RICHMOND, Vt— As a lethal ailment continues to be discovered in wintering bat colonies around the Northeast, conservation groups announced today that they will sue the federal government unless it undertakes a review of all its activities that may be harming endangered bat species.

Biologists estimate that hundreds of thousands of bats throughout several eastern states have died, or will soon be dead, from a new and baffling illness dubbed white-nose syndrome. In the past two weeks, the syndrome has been confirmed in bat caves in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. It was first observed last winter in caves near Albany, New York, and in the past three months has been documented in sites throughout that state, along with Vermont and Massachusetts.

The conservation groups assert that federal agencies conducting activities potentially harmful to four endangered bat species must revisit these projects in light of the new threat of white-nose syndrome. The activities include logging, road-building, prescribed burning on public lands, and federally financed highway construction.

“The law and common sense require federal agencies to reexamine their activities in light of this horrific threat to bats,” says Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Logging and road-building have pushed these bats closer to extinction for decades. White-nose syndrome could be the final blow, which is why action is needed now to prevent the loss of these important species.”

The agencies named in the letter sent today include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Federal Highway Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, Tennessee Valley Authority, and Department of Defense.

Among the bat species known to be dying from the syndrome is the endangered Indiana bat. Three other endangered bats in the eastern United States — the gray bat, Ozark big-eared bat, and the Virginia big-eared bat — have not yet been observed with the deadly malady, but due to lower numbers and limited distribution, could be even more vulnerable if the ailment shows up in their ranges.

“With the syndrome now seen in southwest Pennsylvania, we have the most fearsome threat to bats ever known poised at the edge of Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia — states with some of the last strongholds for these at-risk species,” said Matteson. “It would be a tragedy if society did not do everything in its power to protect these animals, which are not only vital to healthy ecosystems, but part of a natural heritage that belongs to all of us.”

The letter of intent to sue was written by the Center for Biological Diversity and is co-signed by the Adirondack Council, Friends of Blackwater, Heartwood, and Restore: The North Woods.

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