The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed a rule that would exempt certain activities in certain locations from the prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) if the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) is listed as a threatened species.

In areas affected by white nose syndrome (WNS), the proposed rule would exempt forest management activities (i.e. logging), maintenance and limited expansion of existing rights of way and transmission corridors, prairie management and minimal tree removal projects from the take prohibitions of the ESA with respect to the NLEB.  For the purpose of the proposed rule, areas affected by WNS means any area within 150 miles of a county or district where WNS has been detected.

In areas not affected by WNS, any incidental take of the NLEB resulting from otherwise lawful activities would be exempted from the ESA prohibitions. 

The exemptions would only take effect if the NLEB is listed as threatened, as opposed to endangered.  If the NLEB is listed as endangered, USFWS can only authorize take through Section 7 consultation or the Section 10 incidental take permit process.    

The proposed rule and an accompanying 60-day comment period were announced today in the Federal Register