For Immediate Release, January 15, 2015
Contact: Mollie Matteson, (802) 318-1487 or email@example.com
Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Weakened Protections for Vanishing Bat
Feds Bow to Pressure From Industry, Politicians
WASHINGTON— After pressure from industries and politicians critical of the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued an alternate proposal to protect the northern long-eared bat only as "threatened" rather than "endangered" and included a special rule that would continue to allow many activities that harm the bat, including logging. The less-protective proposal comes despite the fact that the bat, which has been decimated by the fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome, has already declined by up to 99 percent in the Northeast.
“Today politics won out over science and law,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is an especially dark day in the sad saga of the northern long-eared bat, because this species needs as much help as possible right now, and instead the government has decided to put the wishes of industry before the needs of a vanishing animal.”
The northern long-eared bat is one of seven bat species affected by white-nose syndrome, a disease that scientists believe was introduced to North America from Europe, and which first appeared on bats in caves in upstate New York in 2006. The disease has already spread to the Midwest, South and Great Lakes states, as well as into Canada. As a result of the northern long-eared bat’s dramatic decline, the Center petitioned to have the species listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2010.
In response to this petition, the Fish and Wildlife Service recommended in 2013 that the northern long-eared bat be listed as “endangered,” the most protective status under the Endangered Species Act. However, after heavy pushback from the timber, oil and gas, mining, and wind-energy industries, whose activities could harm the species, the Service delayed its final decision on the bat’s designation for six months. Multiple state natural-resource agencies concerned about the impact of the bat’s protection on logging also objected to the species’ designation as endangered. Various congressional members from states within the bat’s range have also vehemently opposed the federal protection of the beleaguered bat.
With its latest proposal to downgrade the listing status of the northern long-eared bat from endangered to threatened, and allow exemptions for activities that might result in harm to the bat, the Fish and Wildlife Service has retreated dramatically from its original recommendation. Listing decisions under the Endangered Species Act are supposed to be based strictly on the best available science, and not on economic, political or other factors. Underscoring this, in November more than 80 bat scientists sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife director Dan Ashe, urging him to follow through with his agency’s recommendation to list the species as endangered.
A final decision from the agency is due on April 2.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.