For Immediate Release, June 23, 2010
Contact: Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 434-2388 (office); (802) 318-1487 (cell)
Lawsuit Launched to Protect Two Bat Species Threatened by White-nose Syndrome
RICHMOND, Vt.— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for not acting quickly enough to give endangered species protections to two bat species hit hard by a fast-spreading, lethal disease known as white-nose syndrome. The Center says the agency has hurt both eastern small-footed and northern long-eared bats by missing legally required deadlines for responding to an Endangered Species Act petition to protect them.
“Bat numbers are plummeting, bat biologists across the country have been urgently sounding the extinction alarm, and yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is silent,” said Mollie Matteson, a conservation advocate at the Center.
The Interior Department missed an April deadline for responding to the endangered species petition and has given no indication of when and how it intends to answer the call for stronger protections for the two species. Both bat species were thought to be uncommon to rare prior to the appearance of white-nose syndrome in the northeast United States in 2006. Since then, the disease has spread into 14 states and two Canadian provinces, taking a harsh toll on the two species as well as seven others.
In Massachusetts, New York and Vermont, the states where the disease has been present for the longest, the eastern small-footed bat population has decreased by nearly 80 percent over the past two years, and the northern long-eared bat population has shrunk by 93 percent.
“These two bat species are on a fast track to extinction,” said Matteson. “How close to extinction do these bats need to be before the agency acknowledges the need to grant them the strongest protections possible?”
Researchers believe white-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus, new to science, that spreads from bat to bat and from bats to the caves where they hibernate. There is compelling evidence that humans can also transmit the fungus via caving gear and clothing. The petitioned bat species are also threatened by human disturbance and vandalism in caves, habitat loss and environmental toxins.
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.