Michigan -(Ammoland.com)- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced Wednesday a final rule designed to protect the northern long-eared bat – currently designated as a threatened species – during its most sensitive life stages.
The rule, allowed under Section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act, was designed to provide maximum benefit to the species while providing reasonable limits to regulations.
“We welcome this biologically sound determination from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said DNR Director Bill Moritz. “Listing the bat as threatened with a 4(d) rule allows for proper protections while also providing needed flexibility for those who live and work within the bat’s range. This decision represents a model for collaboration among states and the federal government for finding positive solutions to conservation challenges.”
The Michigan DNR supports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s final 4(d) rule because it allows the state to conserve and protect the northern long-eared bat while continuing normal forest management activities and routine right-of-way maintenance. The decision should reduce the northern long-eared bat listing’s potential economic impact to the forestry and transportation industries.
Populations of northern long-eared bats have drastically declined due to white-nose syndrome (WNS), which has killed an estimated 5.5 million bats in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and Canada. The fungus that causes this disease thrives in low temperatures and high humidity – conditions commonly found in caves and mines where northern long-eared bats hibernate. In Michigan, white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in 11 counties: Alger, Alpena, Delta, Dickinson, Houghton, Keweenaw, Mackinac, Marquette, Ontonagon, Clare and Manistee. The Michigan DNR and Eastern Michigan University are conducting WNS surveillance and bat population monitoring this winter and anticipate finding WNS-infected bats at most hibernacula (caves and mines where bats spend the winter).
Under the 4(d) rule, incidental take – defined as take that results from, but is not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity – is prohibited in Michigan in the following circumstances:
If it occurs within a hibernation site for northern long-eared bats.
If it results from tree removal activities within a quarter-mile of a hibernaculum.
If the activities involve cutting down or destroying known occupied maternity roost trees, or any other trees within 150 feet of that maternity roost tree, during the pup-rearing season (June 1 through July 31).
The final rule is designed to protect bats when they are most vulnerable, including when they occupy hibernacula and during the two-month pup-rearing season from June through July. The greatest potential restrictions would be during these months, with reduced restrictions at all other times.
The Michigan DNR has provided leadership on this issue by collaborating with many other state agencies and forestry and wildlife associations to develop and submit scientifically based recommendations to the USFWS on the proposed listing of the northern long-eared bat and the final 4(d) rule.
To learn more about the northern long-eared bat and the final listing determination, visit the USFWS web site.
To learn more about the history and background of white-nose syndrome in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/wns.
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