AmericanFarm.com

Government protecting endangered bat species

By JONATHAN CRIBBS
Staff Writer

CAMP HILL, Pa. (April 21, 2015) — Farmers trying to renovate barns, cut down trees or potentially use certain pesticides and herbicides may run into a new roadblock after the federal government recently listed the northern long-eared bat a threatened species, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau said.
The state Farm Bureau has been protesting the addition of the bat to the endangered species list since September when it testified before a U.S. House committee in Harrisburg on the issue.
The northern long-eared bat lives in 38 states from the Midwest to the Northeast, including the Delmarva area.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has chosen to protect the bat since more than 6 million of them have died over the three years most likely due to White Nose Syndrome, a fungal infection.
Farm Bureau officials said they’re waiting for some answers, however.
“Farmers are seeking clarification of the interim rule, because it isn’t clear how it will treat the lawful use of crop protection tools, including pesticides,” Farm Bureau President Rick Ebert said in a statement. “The interim rule does not explicitly exempt lawful pesticide use by farmers even though Fish and Wildlife Service proposals make it clear that pesticides are not a factor in the decline of the northern long-eared bat population.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service had until the end of the year to decide whether to include the bat species and 756 other species as threatened or endangered due to a 2011 closed-door settlement between the service and two environmental groups.
The service backed off the endangered label, however, opting for threatened, which is less restricting. Regardless, Farm Bureau officials lamented the change.
“Let’s say you had an old farm building you wanted to tear down,” Farm Bureau spokesman Mark O’Neil told The Delmarva Farmer in September. “Potentially, you wouldn’t be able to do that because if you did that you might displace bats. … We don’t want to get involved with those questions. … Farmers have enough to worry about on a daily basis.”
But protecting the bats helps protect agriculture too, service officials said.
“Bats are a critical component of our nation’s ecology and economy, maintaining a fragile insect predator-prey balance. We lose them at our peril,” Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement earlier this month. “Without bats, insect populations can rise dramatically with the potential for devastating losses for our crop farmers and foresters. The alternative to bats is greater pesticide use, which brings with it another set of ecological concerns.”
The listing becomes effective May 4.
For more information about the listing, visit http://www.fws.gov/midwest/nleb/.