Northern long-eared bat listed as Federally Threatened

On April 2, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will publish a final rule in the Federal Register designating the northern long-eared bat as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing becomes effective on May 4, 2015. Also effective May 4 is an interim special rule under section 4(d) of the ESA that provides flexibility to landowners, land managers, government agencies and others as they conduct activities in areas that could be northern long-eared bat habitat. The Service will continue to refine this interim rule and is accepting comments on the interim rule for 90 days beginning April 2, 2015. Based on the comments and any other new information we receive, we intend to revise the interim 4(d) rule and publish a final version by the end of this year.

The Service proposed the northern long-eared bat as endangered in October 2013. During its review process, however, the Service determined the northern long-eared bat meets the ESAs definition of threatened rather than endangered. Under the Act, an endangered species is currently in danger of becoming extinct, while a threatened species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Essentially, endangered species are at the brink of extinction now; threatened species are likely to be at the brink in the future.

The Service considered a wide range of data in making its determination. White-nose syndrome, the primary threat to the northern long-eared bat, has not yet been detected throughout the entire range of the species, and will not likely affect the entire range for some years. In addition, the species has not yet suffered declines and appears stable in the area not yet affected by disease. Finally, the species still persists in some areas impacted by white-nose syndrome, creating some uncertainty as to the risk posed by the disease.

For more information about the northern long-eared bat, the final listing as threatened, the 4(d) rule and related information, visit the Services web site at www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/mammals/nleb. For more information about white-nose syndrome visit www.whitenosesyndrome.org.

The ESA protects threatened and endangered wildlife from “take,” which includes harming, harassing or killing a listed species. However, the Service may implement 4(d) rules for wildlife listed as threatened that tailor take prohibitions to those that are “necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of such species.”

In areas of the northern long-eared bats range that have not yet been affected by white-nose syndrome, as defined in the interim rule, incidental take (unintentional harm to bats incidental to otherwise lawful activities) is not prohibited. In areas of the bats range that may be affected by white-nose syndrome, we believe incidental take caused by some tree removal and tree-clearing activities, when combined with conservation measures that protect the bats most vulnerable life stages, does not need to be prohibited to conserve the northern long-eared bat. In addition, we believe removing bats from human dwellings does not need to be regulated.

Take incidental to certain activities conducted in accordance with the following habitat conservation measures, as applicable, is not prohibited (i.e., excepted from the prohibitions):

(i) Activities that occur more than 0.25 mile (0.4 km) from a known, occupied hibernacula.

(ii) Activities that avoid cutting or destroying known, occupied roost trees during the pup season (June 1–July 31).

(iii) Activities that avoid clearcuts (and similar harvest methods, including seed tree, shelterwood, and coppice) within 0.25 mile (0.4 km) of known, occupied roost trees during the pup season (June 1–July 31).

Purposeful take, however, other than removal of bats from dwellings, is prohibited.

You may submit comments on the interim 4(d) rule by one of the following methods:

(1)  Electronically:  Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R5–ES–2011–0024, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”

(2)  By hard copy:  Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:  Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R5–ES–2011–0024; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

We request that you send comments only by one of the methods described above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us.

Deadline for comments is July 1, 2015.

The Service is hosting three information briefing teleconferences to provide details and answer questions about the listing and interim 4(d) rule:

Friday, April 3 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET), 1:00 p.m. Central Time (CT)

Wednesday, April 8 at 4:00 p.m. ET, 3:00 p.m. CT

Thursday, April 9 at Noon ET, 11:00 a.m. CT

To participate, call toll-free: 877-918-2510, enter passcode 9285200, and press #