Comment Period Ends Mar. 17, 2015

Remember the Northern Spotted Owl? It was a bird living in the Pacific northwest that was awarded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “Threatened Species” designation in 1990. Vast swaths of timber were classified off limits to harvest. That action drove lumber prices to new levels of volatility, costing homebuilders and buyers of new homes millions at the time.

In April the agency will rule, under the Endangered Species Act, as to whether the Northern Long-Eared Bat will be classified as threatened or endangered, which could turn the 3 ½ inch long flying mammal into 2015’s spotted owl—potentially removing portions of its habitat zones from the possibility of prospective shale, other oil and gas, wind energy and similar development activities.

According to the agency’s web page for the bat initiative, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that the northern long-eared bat be listed an “endangered species” throughout its range.

Northern Long-Eared Bat Proposed Buffer Zone

If species gains the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s recommended “endangered” designation in April, shale, wind energy and pipeline developers could be affected.

This is the agency’s most restrictive designation, and it could affect oil and gas developers, wind energy developers, new pipelines and other developers with projects planned for regions where the bat habitat exists.

According to the FWS, the species’ range includes the following 37 states and the District of Columbia: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa,  Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

“There is a strong chance the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will list the Northern Long-Eared Bat with a special take rule come April. Even the special take rule, as currently proposed, would do little to blunt the impact of a threatened listing on the bulk of the energy industry, say Benjamin Cowan and Andrew Davitt of Locke Lord LLP,” according to

History / Timeline Leading to This Action

The bat’s main trouble may be tracked back to a disease known as white-nose syndrome. White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease known to affect bats, is currently the predominant threat to the northern long-eared bat, especially throughout the Northeast where the species has declined by up to 99 percent from pre-white-nose syndrome levels at many hibernation sites, according to the FWS.

According to the U.S. FWS, on January 21, 2010, the FWS received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity requesting that the northern long-eared bat be listed as threatened or endangered and that critical habitat be designated under the Act.

“On June 29, 2011, the Service published in the Federal Register (76 FR 38095) our finding that the petition to list the northern long-eared bat presented substantial information indicating that the requested action may be warranted, and the Service then began a status review of the species.

The Service’s settlement agreement (multi-district litigation) with Wild Earth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity stated that a 12-month finding for the northern long-eared bat is due to the Federal Register by September 30, 2013.  In addition, if listing is determined to be warranted, the Service will publish a proposed listing rule concurrent with the 12-month finding,”according to the FWS website.

Comments will be accepted Until March 17

Anyone interested in registering an official comment during the  days before the comment period is closed may do so here.

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