For Immediate Release, May 14, 2010
||Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 434-2388 (office); (802) 318-1487 (cell)
Mylea Bayless, Bat Conservation International, (512) 327-9721 x 34 (office); (512) 809-9072 (cell)
Groups Ask Congress to Fund Response to Deadly Bat Disease
Say Money in Federal Budget Inadequate to Address Bat Die-off
AUSTIN, Tex.— Today 60 groups and more than a dozen scientists from across the country called on Congress to allocate additional funds to fight white-nose syndrome, a disease that has killed more than a million bats throughout the eastern United States in the past four years. Bat Conservation International; the Center for Biological Diversity; Natural Resources Defense Council; Defenders of Wildlife; the National Speleological Society; and numerous other organizations representing conservation, organic-farming, scientific-research, wildlife-rehabilitation, and anti-pesticide interests made their plea in a letter to the Senate Interior Appropriations subcommittee.
“State wildlife agencies have had to shoulder much of the burden of responding to the white-nose syndrome crisis,” said Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Yet they have extremely limited funding for this critical work, and without federal assistance, they will not be able to do much beyond gathering reports of dead and dying bats.”
The groups cited the ecological and economic importance of bats in controlling insect populations as one of the main reasons for urgency. “Bats play a critical role in maintaining the balance of nature. They are primary predators of vast numbers of insects, including pests that annually cost American farmers and foresters billions of dollars,” the letter stated.
Last year, scientists estimated $45 million over five years would be required to respond adequately to the crisis. Yet Congress appropriated only $1.9 million for white-nose syndrome in 2010. That money has gone to various federal and state wildlife agencies, as well as researchers trying to determine the cause of and find solutions for the wildlife disease. However, the deadly disease continues to expand into new areas. This past winter, white-nose syndrome spread to four more states as well as Canada, bringing the total disease-affected area to 13 states and two provinces. The groups are requesting $5 million for white-nose syndrome response in 2011.
“White-nose syndrome is now killing bats from Quebec to Missouri,” said Nina Fascione, executive director of Bat Conservation International. “Despite a looming threat of extinctions, current appropriations are not sufficient to meet growing research and management needs.”
More than a million bats are estimated to have died since the malady was discovered among bats hibernating in caves near Albany, New York, in February 2006. Throughout the Northeast, scientists report that bat numbers have plummeted, and several species are now virtually absent from some affected states. Scientists believe a newly described white-nose fungus may be responsible for the illness and that infected bats have no resistance to its effects. As the disease continues to spread, scientists fear that one or more bat species may soon disappear altogether. Researchers have not yet found an effective treatment for the disease.
Bat Conservation International, founded in 1982, is devoted to conserving the world’s bats and their ecosystems in order to ensure a healthy planet.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.