The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has named the Northern long-eared bat to the endangered species list. This means that the bat now has the full protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) which includes protecting critical habitat. That includes restrictions on cutting down any trees greater than 3-inches in diameter between April 1 and November 14. This rule was supposed to go into effect in January but was delayed until March 31. Lots of questions are swirling about this rule.
- Does it mean that NO trees can be cut without detailed environmental studies for 7.5 months?
- What does it mean for lot clearing for home construction?
- How can property owners ensure they are following the rules?
- Where do property owners get information about the rules?
FAAR is working with other stakeholders to get answers to these questions. There is interim guidance linked below, but it seems to raise more questions than it answers. There is also a lot of confusion about the rules, as habitat loss is not a contributing factor to the bat’s demise. Bat populations have been decimated by a white fungus that is thought to be contracted in the caves and abandoned mines that they winter in. The government acknowledges that there is ample habitat for the bats and that the species has been reduced between 97% and 100% in most areas due to the fungus. The ESA listing came after environmental groups sued, forcing the government to list the bat as endangered.
FAAR will continue to gather information about how the species listing impacts property owners and their plans to build homes.