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Washington, D.C. — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today sent a bipartisan letter with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and 11 of his senate colleagues to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe expressing concern over the potential listing of the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The letter calls on the FWS to revise the misguided and harmful forest management restrictions accompanying the endangered species listing released last year, and instead issue a regulation to allow normal forest management practices and minimize economic impact on states.

“If FWS is serious about protecting both the northern long-eared bat and the Black Hills National Forest—it will drop its proposed listing, focus on the real threat to the bat by addressing white-nose syndrome, and allow normal forest management to continue,” said Thune. “The proposed listing doesn’t address the real problem—death loss due to white nose syndrome. The FWS needs to focus on the real issue instead of putting forest health and 1,500 jobs in the Black Hills area at risk.”

Listing the long-eared bat as endangered and implementation of the “Northern Long-eared Bat Interim Conference and Planning Guidance” released last year could effectively end timber management in the Black Hills National Forest, which will cause declining forest health, increase the likelihood of large scale wildfires, and severely impact the timber industry in the Black Hills. Thune sent a letter on October 14, 2014, along with Representative Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) calling on the FWS to withdraw its proposed listing of the NLEB under the ESA due to insufficient supporting data to warrant the listing.

Joining Thune and Klobuchar in their letter are Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.).

Text of the senators’ letter is below:

January 14, 2015

The Honorable Dan Ashe
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Director Ashe:

We write to express our concern about the impact of white-nose syndrome on the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) and the potential listing of the bat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

With white-nose syndrome (WNS) occurring in only 17 of the 39 states that constitute the NLEB's range, the U.S. forest products industry, along with other stakeholders, have called into question actions taken and proposals offered thus far by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve the bat. If during the final review process the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determines it necessary to list the northern long-eared bat as threatened, we urge you to issue a rule under Section 4(d) of the ESA concurrently in order to allow normal forest management practices and minimize economic impacts in our states.

In January 2014, the USFWS released Northern Long-eared Bat Interim Conference and Planning Guidance designed to answer questions it received from various federal agencies on how best to reduce harmful impacts to the bat and its habitat through certain conservation measures and activities. Since the release of this guidance, we have heard numerous concerns about the potential negative impacts these recommendations would have on forest economies if implemented, including the prohibition on harvesting timber from April 1 to September 30 each year.

The challenges that affected industries in our states would face should a threatened listing be issued could be minimized through practical and flexible solutions provided in a special rule under Section 4(d) of the ESA. By issuing a special 4(d) rule concurrently with a threatened listing, the USFWS could reduce harm to bat populations, while at the same time allowing certain typical forest and land management activities to continue. Additionally, we urge you to revise the Interim Conference and Planning Guidance to reflect the conservation benefits from normal forest management activities to northern long-eared bats concurrent with your listing decision.

Protecting the bat from extinction is a goal that we all share. By working together we can ensure the health of our forests, and maintain forest communities and local economies, while preserving the northern long-eared bat for generations to come.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Cc: The Honorable Sally Jewell, Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior
Cc: Chairman Michael Boots, White House Council on Environmental Quality