On November 29, 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued a press release about the reclassification of the northern long-eared bat from a threatened to an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The species was originally listed as threatened in May 2015; a final 4(d) rule was put into place the following year. A 4(d) rule allows the USFWS to tailor take restrictions to those that make the most sense for protecting and managing threatened species (“take” being defined as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct”). Because 4(d) rules can only be developed for threatened species, when the reclassification takes effect on January 30, 2023, the 4(d) rule and the associated Programmatic Biological Opinion and streamlined consultation framework for the northern long-eared bat will no longer apply.
Without the exceptions of the 4(d) rule, under which incidental take was not prohibited under certain conditions, clearing trees in suitable habitat in the summer months could result in unauthorized take of individual bats if they are utilizing the trees slated for removal. Suitable habitat for this species is generally defined as live trees and/or snags ≥3 inches diameter at breast height that have exfoliating bark, cracks, crevices, and/or cavities. Per USFWS guidance, if suitable habitat is present, then it must be assumed the bats are present as well, unless there is data to the contrary.
This change warrants verifying your UVM/IVM program compliance with the status change.
With the northern long-eared bat now upgraded to endangered status and with tricolored and little brown bats likely receiving federal protection within the next two years, crucial activities that can mitigate impacts to bats or enhance habitat for them are gaining importance for the electric power industry.
Bats use right of ways (ROWs) to move across the landscape, feed, and roost. Beneficial bat management on ROWs may be a tool to address conservation and regulatory compliance goals related to bats for the electric power industry.
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has put together a straightforward less than 5-minute survey on bats and ROWs to circulate among members and other stakeholders (arborists, researchers, etc.) to get a better idea for what has been done to monitor bats along ROWs or enhance their ROW habitat. The proximate goal of this effort is to start documenting and categorizing the types of activities that might support bats along ROWs. The ultimate goal is to identify opportunities or barriers, as well as research needs, to understand bats and ROWs better.
Responses are greatly appreciated no later than Friday, December 16, 2022.