WSJ Industry riled by bat rules

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WSJ Industry riled by bat rules

Postby spider » Apr 8, 2015 3:03 pm

Cave softly,
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Re: WSJ Industry riled by bat rules

Postby PYoungbaer » Apr 9, 2015 8:26 am

With industry advocates at one extreme, you have the Center for Biological Diversity at the other. This from yesterday's National Law Review:

On April 2, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it would be listing the northern long-eared bat as threatened, rather than endangered, as it had originally proposed in October of 2013. The listing gives the bat new protections but does not impose all of the requirements that would have been applicable had the bat been listed as endangered. A “threatened” species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future, whereas an “endangered” species is currently in danger of extinction. On the very same day, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief before the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Civ. No. 1:15-cv-00477 requesting tha the court, (1) declare that the Service’s failure to engage in a public process and prepare either an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement analyzing the potential environmental impacts of, and alternatives to, the interim 4(d) rule, prior to adopting it, violated NEPA and is unlawful; (2) vacate the interim 4(d) rule and remand it to the Service; (3) award Plaintiff fees and costs; and (4) grant such other relief as the Court deems just and proper.


Read the whole article here: http://www.natlawreview.com/article/northern-long-eared-bat-to-be-designated-threatened-not-endangered-litigation-immedi

USFWS's action pleased almost no one, and frankly, I'm not sure how much practical effect it will have, given how few of these bats there were to begin with. To wit, in a research paper published in "Bat Research News, Summer 2011, Vol. 52 No. 2, studying the evolution and spread of WNS through 42 hibernacula in NY, VT, PA, WV and VA, the total number of Northern Long-Eared bats pre-WNS was documented as 1,706, and five years later, the total number was 31, or a 98% decline. That's obviously awful, but the numbers are very small, arguing for a targeted approach. For context, the most populous bat species, the Little Brown bat, totaled 348,277 pre-WNS vs. 30,260, a 91% loss, but the remaining bats still totaled more than all other hibernating bat species combined (only hibernating bats are affected by WNS). The numbers of total losses due to WNS, often stated as at least 5.5 million or up to 7 million bats, are estimates, based on projections of range and estimated numbers of hibernacula and scientific literature over time, not any actual counts. What we do know from actual documentation is that, for the Northern Long-eared bat, it's a very small number pre and post WNS.

The practical challenges are huge: finding summer maternity roost trees that are actually used and then designating them for protection. With so few individual bats, this is quite difiicult, and until WNS, most bat research did not focus on this species, so there is a huge knowledge gap of actual location. For "take" environmental impacts, industry, state road projects, developers and the like must do presence/absence studies, and in the vast majority of cases, there will be "absence" of Northern Long-eared bats.

While the media articles and various press releases repeat the 90-98% declines, which while accurate, the raw numbers, I think give a better perspective. For example,
Numbers dropped from 911 to only 18 individuals counted among 36 hibernacula sites repeatedly surveyed from 2007-2012 (NYSDEC 2012)
Many of the articles also include generic statements about how many insects an individual bat eats, and that bats eat insects that damage garden, farm, and forest crops, but it's hard to see how much impact 18 individuals, or even 1706, spread over multiple states, have on bugs and crops.

So, yes, the Northern Long-eared bats are threatened, but what can we practically do? Stay out of caves where they are hibernating - which we've always known, and protect their maternity roosts, when and where we can find them, so that any young pups have the opportunity to survive and help replenish the population. Seems like that's what USFWS ultimately tried to do.

My two (OK, maybe three) cents.
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Re: WSJ Industry riled by bat rules

Postby driggs » Apr 10, 2015 1:04 pm

PYoungbaer wrote:To wit, in a research paper published in "Bat Research News, Summer 2011, Vol. 52 No. 2, studying the evolution and spread of WNS through 42 hibernacula in NY, VT, PA, WV and VA, the total number of Northern Long-Eared bats pre-WNS was documented as 1,706, and five years later, the total number was 31, or a 98% decline. That's obviously awful, but the numbers are very small, arguing for a targeted approach. For context, the most populous bat species, the Little Brown bat, totaled 348,277 pre-WNS vs. 30,260, a 91% loss, but the remaining bats still totaled more than all other hibernating bat species combined (only hibernating bats are affected by WNS). The numbers of total losses due to WNS, often stated as at least 5.5 million or up to 7 million bats, are estimates, based on projections of range and estimated numbers of hibernacula and scientific literature over time, not any actual counts. What we do know from actual documentation is that, for the Northern Long-eared bat, it's a very small number pre and post WNS.


Hi Peter,

I'd like to point out that Northern Myotis populations can't accurately be monitored with hibernation counts. In West Virginia, for instance, we've never found more than 5 individuals in any cave; yet Northerns were consistently the second or third most common bat captured in summer mist nets pre-WNS.

Here's a great presentation from last year's NEBWG, by one of Stantec's consultants, documenting how capture records show an order-of-magnitude or greater population than hibernation counts, at least in the PA/WV/OH/KY region.

http://nebwg.org/AnnualMeetings/2014/NEBWG2014Presentations/PANEL.Kiser.pptx.pdf

It turns out that Northerns are not only difficult to count, they're also quite difficult to record. They echolocate at very low amplitude, sometimes even using passive hearing to glean prey from foliage.

Estimating their numbers is a necessity given how difficult they are to monitor, and estimation is unavoidably inaccurate.
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Re: WSJ Industry riled by bat rules

Postby PYoungbaer » Apr 11, 2015 8:07 am

Dave,

Thanks for the PowerPoint - very interesting. Given the pre-deliction of MYSE for hibernating in tight cave cracks and mine drill holes, it doesn't surprise me that hibernation counts don't accurately reflect population numbers.

I also just read your self-described "pot stirring" NEBWG post on the USFWS acoustic monitoring guidelines for MYSE. For those who didn't see them, basically the testing of various acoustic monitoring equipment has accuracy issues and questionable assumptions, and, when combined with software that has multiple filter settings, essentially renders this method arguably worthless for determining absence/presence of the Northern Long-eared bat.

Slightly different concerns were raised at NEBWG and elsewhere the year before about USFWS' Indiana bat acoustic monitoring guidelines, where the inability of the programs to differentiate between the calls of Indiana bats and Little Browns was quite troublesome.

Strong arguments in both cases for the continuation of mist netting in order to obtain a more complete picture of population trends.
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