Northern Long-Eared Bat Gets Federal Protection

On April 2, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the Northern Long-Eared Bat (Myotis septentrionalis) as threatened in the Federal Register, giving it federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing becomes effective May 4, 2015. The ruling is a response to depleted populations due to the spread of White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that disturbs and ultimately kills bats during winter hibernation. Also effective May 4 is an interim 4(d) rule that provides flexibility in ESA implementation, allowing for exemptions of incidental “take” prohibition. Incidental take is defined in the ESA as to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, etc. in a non-purposeful manner.

What impact does this listing determination have on GAI’s clients?

It is important to note that the proposed rule under section 4(d) of the ESA will not remove, or alter in any way, the consultation requirements under the ESA, including informal or formal consultations when applying for permits. Also, the rule does not preclude the need for surveys or consultations for Indiana bats in areas where the ranges overlap (i.e., much of the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast United States).

The proposed rule also allows exemption from take prohibitions (prohibitions for accidental death) for certain activities when they are conducted in accordance with defined conservation measures. The exemption includes two activities. First, maintenance and limited expansion of existing rights-of-way (ROW) and transmission corridors, including transportation (highways and railways), utility transmission lines, and energy delivery (pipelines). Maintenance and limited expansion are defined as routine maintenance (within an existing corridor or ROW) and expansion of a corridor or ROW by up to 100 feet (30 m) from the edge of an existing cleared corridor or ROW. The second exemption includes projects resulting in minimal tree removal (generally defined as impacting less than one acre of forested habitat).

“Our bat biologists have been closely following this ruling and are guiding our clients through regulatory compliance as we determine environmental concerns around current and potential projects,” stated GAI Environmental Manager Adam Mann. “Our biologists are dedicated to supporting project development while at the same time working to conserve natural habitats for wildlife.”

It is anticipated that other projects that are subject to a Federal permit/authorization, located on Federal lands, and/or that receive Federal funding and propose tree removal, would be subject to USFWS consultations, surveys to locate roost trees, clearing restrictions, and other activities similar to those for Indiana bats.

At GAI, the USFWS and state agencies recognize our bat biologists as qualified bat surveyors. Surveys for bats help determine potential environmental concerns around and near potential projects. GAI is committed to assisting our clients with permitting issues related to native bats and other species.

For more information on assistance with interpreting the new rule and questions about what you need to do to comply, contact Adam Mann at 859.647.6647 or Jason Duffey at 859.647.6647.

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