FWS Reclassifies Northern Long-Eared Bat as Endangered

FWS Reclassifies Northern Long-Eared Bat as Endangered

On November 29, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it was reclassifying the northern long-eared bat as endangered due to increasing threats from white-nosed syndrome. The northern long-eared bat is found in 37 states in the eastern and north-central U.S. and typically hibernate in caves or abandoned mines. White-nosed syndrome has been found in 80% of the species’ native range and is expected to affect 100% of the range by the end of the decade.

“This listing is an alarm bell and a call to action,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams. “White-nose syndrome is decimating cave-dwelling bat species like the northern long-eared bat at unprecedented rates. The Service is deeply committed to working with partners on a balanced approach that reduces the impacts of disease and protects the survivors to recover northern long-eared bat populations.”

In April 2015, the FWS made the decision to list the northern long-eared bat as threatened because at the time white-nosed syndrome was only found in the eastern portion of its range. The agency issued an interim 4(d) rule in January 2016 that allowed the incidental take of the bats during activities including forest management practices, maintenance and limited expansion of transportation and utility rights-of-way, removal of trees and brush to maintain prairie habitat, and limited tree-removal projects, provided these activities protect known maternity roosts and hibernation caves.

The release for the current listing decision notes, "The change in status from threatened to endangered, when final, will nullify the prior 4(d) rule that tailored protections for the species when it was listed as threatened. The Service recognizes that the change to endangered status may prompt questions about establishing ESA compliance for forestry, wind energy, infrastructure and other projects in the range of the northern long-eared bat. We are committed to working proactively with stakeholders to conserve remaining northern long-eared bats while reducing impacts to landowners.”

December 15, 2022