On October 2, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) proposed to list the northern long-eared bat as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. After a 90-day comment period ending January 2, 2014, the USFWS anticipated making a final determination on the listing by October 2, 2014. In the face of substantial public comment questioning the USFWS’ interpretation of the accuracy and sufficiency of the information regarding the potential effects of the white-nose fungus on the northern long-eared bat on June 30, 2014, the USFWS postponed the listing determination until April 2, 2015 and reopened the comment period for a period of 60 days.
USFWS has recognized that there is substantial scientific uncertainty and disagreement about its analysis and interpretation of the data, specifically in how and to what extent white-nose syndrome (a devastating fungal affliction of some bats) will spread and affect the northern long-eared bat across its range. The USFWS specifically requests additional information and comment regarding current population trends of the northern long-eared bat across its range and information pertaining to the white-nose syndrome specifically.
The northern long-eared bat is a fairly common bat in Ohio and throughout the Midwest. The proposed listing has already dramatically impacted federal permitting decisions in a variety of context including stream and wetland permitting and FERC certifications, including triggering formal and informal consultation with the USFWS and expensive and seasonal sampling requirements. Nevertheless, it is encouraging that the USFWS has recognized that additional scientific evaluation is necessary before proceeding with a final listing determination.