For Immediate Release, December 16, 2011
Contact: Mollie Matteson, (802) 318-1487
Congress Directs $4 Million to Fight Against Bat-killing Disease
WASHINGTON— Today the grim picture for North American bats, dying by the millions from a disease that showed up just five years ago in the Northeast and which has since cut a deadly swath from Nova Scotia to Tennessee, got a tiny bit brighter. Congress has directed the Department of Interior to allot $4 million from its 2012 endangered species recovery fund toward research and management of white-nose syndrome.
“At least the work that is being done now is not going to grind to a halt,” said Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Our bats are dying by the millions; it would be a terrible tragedy to no longer be able to marvel at the acrobatics of bats in the night skies and to lose the insect control services they provide."
The language in the final Interior Appropriations bill directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fund disease research and response activities, including providing support to states involved in white-nose syndrome work. The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service are also directed to prioritize “research related to white-nose syndrome in bats and the inventory and monitoring of bat resources” on their lands. No funds are appropriated for this work, however.
In 2010 and 2011, Congress awarded the Fish and Wildlife Service a special appropriation of $1.9 million for white nose syndrome.
“We’re grateful that there is an appropriation to fight white-nose syndrome and save bats, although much more than $4 million is needed to truly combat this unprecedented wildlife crisis," said Matteson. "We especially thank Senator Leahy of Vermont, who is a huge bat fan, for not forgetting what’s at stake if we lose multiple bat species.”
Leahy has consistently supported federal funding for white-nose syndrome response. He has also made cameo appearances in several Batman films.
White-nose syndrome first appeared in a bat cave near Albany, New York in 2006, and has spread to 16 states and four provinces. The fungus that causes the disease has been found on asymptomatic bats in another three states. The Center petitioned for the federal endangered species listing of two bat species, the northern long-eared bat and the eastern small-footed bat, in 2010. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made an initial positive finding on the petition. The Service is also reviewing the status of the little brown bat with an eye toward possible endangered listing. The species was once the most common bat in the eastern United States, but has virtually disappeared from much of its core range, suffering mortality rates over 90 percent.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.