Northern Long-Eared Bats Listed as Threatened Species

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that the northern long-eared bat will be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that the northern long-eared bat will be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Listing the species with a designation as threatened instead of endangered, as originally proposed, provides official protection of this species, while reducing the regulatory burden, especially to those in the forestry and transportation industries.  Under the ESA, a threatened status allows for implementation of a rule, known as the 4(d) rule, which gives certain projects automatic clearance to proceed.

InMichigan, the 4(d) rule allows forest management, maintenance and expansion of existing rights-of-way and transmission corridors, minimal tree removal projects, and certain other activities to occur, as long as the proposed activity will not take place near or impact known locations of bat colonies or maternity roosts.

The 4(d) rule is an interim rule that is currently being re-evaluated. The public comment period regarding the interim rule is open until July; a final decision on its status is expected by December 2015.

The new listing could impact any federally funded project, as well as some state-funded projects, that entail tree removal.  Additionally, for some projects that entail significant tree removal, including those that are privately-funded, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is requiring habitat assessment and subsequent project clearance for protected bat species prior to granting wetland permits.  

The northern long-eared bat occurs throughout the eastern half of the United States, including both peninsulas of Michigan.  This bat species is among the numerous bat species affected by the white-nose syndrome, which is a fungal disease that is decimating bat populations in the eastern United States.  The northern long-eared bat is the first bat species to be listed as protected under the Endangered Species Act due to the impact of the white-nose syndrome.

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