Author: Dan Maltese

Pennsylvania Game Commission Seeks Protection for Three Bat Species

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The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) is taking action to list three bats as state endangered species. In late September 2018, the agency’s Board of Game Commissioners preliminarily approved a measure to update the state’s list of threatened and endangered species to add the northern long-eared bat, tri-colored bat, and little brown bat.  The PGC had attempted to list these species in 2012, but concerns from the timber, oil and gas, real estate development, and coal industries about unnecessary oversight and job loss prompted the PGC to withdraw its proposal.

The northern long-eared bat was previously listed as a federally “threatened” species in 2016 by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (U.S. FWS). The little brown bat is proposed to be reviewed under the U.S. FWS 7-Year Listing Work Plan in 2023.  The tri-colored bat will likely follow this same review schedule.  Regardless of the intended future federal review for these species, the PGC has decided to move forward in an effort to protect these bat species ahead of U.S. FWS.

If the proposed state listings are finalized, the PGC will be the lead agency and coordinate with developers to resolve any conflicts for the little brown and tri-colored bats. For potential impacts to northern long-eared bats, coordination with both the U.S. FWS and the PGC will likely be required.

In Pennsylvania, potential threatened and endangered species conflicts can be evaluated using the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) environmental review tool. The PNDI database was established to provide information to help guide environmental decisions related to land development projects. It includes resource information from three state agencies (PGC, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) and one federal agency (U.S. FWS).

The proposed listings will only “flag” those projects that are within 300 meters of a recently identified maternity roost, hibernacula, or capture location. There are approximately 30 hibernacula and 120 maternity sites known to support little brown and tri-colored bats that will be added to the PNDI database. Sites where these bats were known to occur prior to the arrival of white nose syndrome (WNS) will not be included in the PNDI updates.  Additional protective measures may include seasonal tree clearing restrictions for those sites with conflicts.

The decline of these bat species is specifically linked to WNS, a fungal disease that affects bats during hibernation. WNS has affected 97% of Pennsylvania’s bats that hibernate in caves.  Given the fact that most female cave bats only produce one pup per year, it will take more than a century to replace previous populations.

Written comment will be accepted by the PGC on this status-change package until December 31, 2018. The Board of Game Commissioners also will accept public comment at its January 27 and 28, 2019, meetings and final adoption of the proposal will be considered at the Board’s January 29, 2019, meeting in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

CEC will continue to track the protection status of the abovementioned three bats as Pennsylvania state endangered species. Should you have any questions, please contact Daniel A. Maltese, Ecological Sciences Practice Lead, at dmaltese@cecinc.com or (412) 249-3158.  Mr. Maltese is located in CEC’s Pittsburgh headquarters office.

Tricolored Bat: USFWS Announces 90-Day Finding to Determine if Listing is Warranted

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On December 20, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced its affirmative 90-Day Finding for the tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus), formerly known as the eastern pipistrelle. Upon publication in the Federal Register, the USFWS will begin evaluating whether to propose to list the species or not.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Defenders of Wildlife submitted a petition on June 14, 2016, requesting that the tricolored bat be listed as endangered or threatened, and that critical habitat be designated for this species under the Endangered Species Act.

The 90-Day Finding means that USFWS has determined that the CBD and Defenders of Wildlife petition presented substantial information that warranted a review. It does not mean the USFWS will list the species, it means that USFWS will spend time officially evaluating the species for listing as threatened or endangered or not listing the species at all. After completing a 12-month status review, the USFWS will issue a finding on the petition, and, after that, there will be a public comment period.

The tricolored bat has a very broad range covering 38 states; from Alabama to Maine, North Carolina to New Mexico. It is the only member of the genus Perimyotis. White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that affects bats during hibernation, has been determined to be responsible for the significant decline of this species.

CEC will continue to track the progress of USFWS in relation to the tricolored bat and the potential listing under the Endangered Species Act. Should you have any questions, please contact Dan Maltese (412-249-3158; dmaltese@cecinc.com) or Ryan Slack (317-655-7777; rslack@cecinc.com). Additional information can be found at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/12/20/2017-27389/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-90-day-findings-for-five-species

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Proposes Listing of Northern Long-Eared Bat

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The United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing to list the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) as a federally endangered species throughout its range.  Based on the information provided in the Federal Register (Vol. 78, No, 191) dated October 2, 2013, the USFWS is seeking data and comments on the listing by December 2, 2013. Requests for a public hearing must be received by the USFWS in writing on or before November 18, 2013. A final determination as to the listing will be made based on comments received.  Pertinent information related to this listing includes:

  • The northern long-eared bat has been particularly hard hit by White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), especially in the eastern U.S.  Typically, federal protection for a species under the Endangered Species Act is driven by habitat declines.  However, in the case of the northern long-eared bat, the proposed federally endangered status is more closely related to disease-control and not habitat loss.
  • Unlike other species of bats, such as the Indiana bat, the northern long-eared bat does not have a large amount of historical data that can be used to track its decline.  Many of the studies are fairly recent and involve winter hibernacula surveys conducted in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC).  For example, in 2013 the PGC conducted hibernacula surveys at 34 sites where northern long-eared bats were also observed prior to WNS. Researchers found a 99-percent decline (from 637 to 5 bats) at these locations (Turner 2013, unpublished data).  However, in other areas, the northern long-eared bats have been consistently caught during summer mist net surveys and regularly detected during acoustic surveys in eastern populations.
  • The October 2, 2013 Federal Register also offers that the proposed listing of the eastern small footed bat (Myotis leibii) is NOT warranted.

CEC will be providing comment to the USFWS on this proposed listing and is assisting many of our clients on this issue.  For more information, please contact Ryan Slack in our Indianapolis, Indiana office at (877) 746-0749, or Dan Maltese in our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office at (800) 365-2324.