WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced it will extend for six months the deadline on its decision whether to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which comes in response to a letter initiated by U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) and signed by eight members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation, urging the Service to reevaluate the labeling and questioning the science used to support the designation.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s initial designation proposal for the northern long-eared bat lacked sufficient support and any decision to move forward without further evaluation of the science would have been shortsighted and unacceptable,” stated Thompson.
“Given the available information, an endangered listing under the federal ESA would prove to be futile and pose a grave threat to the economy. It is my hope this extension will allow the Service to take a fresh look at the sufficiency and accuracy of the data and ultimately consider an alternative and more effective approach to combat white-nose syndrome.”
While such an extension is not used often, FWS can extend its deadline by six months if there is substantial disagreement regarding the scientific data used to support the determination, in order for the Service to solicit additional information.
“We have received many comments that offer different interpretations of our data and question our interpretation of the data,” stated Lisa Mandell, deputy field supervisor, FWS.
“Commenters have questioned our analysis of the northern long-eared bat’s population levels and trends, our projection of the rate that white-nose syndrome may spread and the threat posed by white-nose syndrome to this bat.”
The Service proposed to list the bat as endangered on Oct. 2, 2013, with final decision due within 12 months. Thompson’s letter to FWS was sent on May 14. As a result of the six-month extension, the Service will make its final determination by April 2, 2015.
As part of the six-month extension, the Service is reopening the public comment period on the listing proposal for 60 days and seeks input from states, tribes, federal agencies and other stakeholders about the status of the northern long-eared bat and the impacts of white-nose syndrome on the species. Previous comments need not be resubmitted.
The rule extending the deadline will publish soon in the Federal Register, at which time the 60-day comment period will begin.