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Boozman, Cotton Investigate U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposal

Oversight Letter Addresses FWS proposals for the Northern Long-Eared Bat

Mar 04 2015

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and 21 of their colleagues questioned U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) Director Dan Ashe regarding the agency’s consideration of the Northern Long-Eared Bat’s (NLEB) addition to the endangered species list. These bats can be found across the entire state of Arkansas, and activities throughout most of our state could be impacted by the current proposals from the Service. 

A poorly-designed plan to protect the bat could needlessly harm forest management in Arkansas, especially from April through September. Forestry is very important to Arkansas, accounting for more than 27 thousand jobs with an economic impact of more than $2.6 billion.

In the letter sent yesterday, the Senators urge that any effort to protect this bat be directed – first and foremost – against white nose syndrome, the disease which is threatening bat populations, instead of shutting down activities that have been carried out for generations without causing significant harm to this bat species. The Senators also ask a series of detailed oversight questions, regarding the expected impact of the Service proposals, as well as broader questions regarding the Administration’s efforts to address the NLEB and the challenge of WNS.  

Click here to read the letter in its entirety. 

“Bats eat insects that threaten crops and disturb people. They are an important part of our ecosystem; but we should address the real issue that is harming bat populations – white nose syndrome,” Boozman said. “Unfortunately, the current proposals from the Fish and Wildlife Service follow the same old playbook. Time and time again, the federal government uses a heavy-handed approach, which fails to lead to species recovery, while causing all kinds of collateral damage. That’s why we need answers from the Service before it goes any further.” 

“All Arkansans support protecting endangered animals, but this proposed classification is unwarranted and would have a devastating impact on some of our state’s most vital industries. The discrepancies in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife budget pertaining to this listing are alarming and I look forward to getting more information to ensure they are appropriately addressing this matter,” Cotton said

The letter urges “efforts to make sure the NLEB is protected without causing undue harm to, or imposing unnecessary regulatory burdens on, economic development, forestry, wind power generation, energy development, agriculture, and conservation projects.” The Service has acknowledged that these activities “have not independently caused significant, population-level effects on the [NLEB].” 

The letter is also signed by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA),  Thad Cochran (R-MS), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK),  Johnny Isakson (R-GA), James Lankford (R-OK), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), David Perdue (R-FA), Jim Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), David Vitter (R-LA) and Roger Wicker (R-MS). The House Natural Resources Committee is sending a similar letter. 

BACKGROUND: The northern long-eared bat (NLEB) is a bat species that has been significantly impacted by white-nose syndrome, a disease affecting hibernating bats.  WNS was first discovered in the winter of 2006-2007 and is associated with extensive bat population loss.  Due to the damage caused by WNS and continued spread of the disease among bat populations, the Service proposed listing the NLEB as endangered on October 2, 2013.  The Service has extended the time for making a final listing determination to April 2, 2015.   

On January 16, 2015, the Service proposed a rule for the NLEB under Section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act.  A 4(d) rule is supposed to allow for flexibility in the ESA’s implementation, tailoring prohibitions to those that make the most sense for protecting and managing at-risk species.  4(d) rules are only allowed for species listed as “threatened” (“threatened” species are at lower risk than “endangered” species).  The final status of the NLEB has not yet been announced, so the 4(d) proposal would only take effect if:  (1) if the 4(d) proposal is finalized and (2) the NLEB is listed as “threatened.” 

The proposed 4(d) rule provides more flexibility in areas that are not affected by WNS, but most of the NLEB range is within 150 miles of a county where WNS has been detected.  As a result, under the proposed 4(d) rule, most communities within the NLEB range will be subject to full ESA constraints. 

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