Citizens will have more time to comment on new rules to protect bats from deadly disease

News Release Published: October 15, 2010 by the Central Office

Contact(s): Kathleen Wolski (608) 264-6282 Laurel Steffes (608) 266-8109

MADISON - The Department of Natural Resources has rescheduled public hearings on measures aimed at protecting Wisconsin's cave bats from the deadly white-nose syndrome (WNS) in order to enable the public to look at all proposed bat rules and to provide a longer comment period.

The state Natural Resources Board last month approved public hearings on both emergency and permanent rule proposals that would list four cave bat species as threatened species under NR 27 of the Wis. Adm. Code and that would list the white-nose syndrome fungus as a prohibited invasive species under NR 40 of the Wis. Adm. Code. Hearings had been planned for later this month, but now will occur on November 29.

"Late this month, the Natural Resources Board will also consider measures to govern decontamination and monitoring for the fungus causing white-nose syndrome. If approved, it makes sense to give people a chance to comment on all the rules at the same time," said Laurie Osterndorf, Administrator for DNR's Land Division.

The third rule that the Board will consider would:

  • Give department personnel access to mines or caves to monitor for the fungus that causes WNS;
  • Restrict the use of caving and mine equipment inside Wisconsin caves that has been used outside the state;
  • Require decontamination procedures for clothing, gear and other equipment that is taken in or near a cave or mine; and
  • Allow the department to work with landowners to install and maintain -- at no cost to the owner -- physical barriers to limit access to caves or mines by either people or bats.

"There are already mine operators, tourist caves, and private landowners who are stepping up and taking voluntary measures to protect bats and prevent the spread of WNS. People see the threat and want to take action, and these new rules will help guide their efforts. This rule is NOT about sealing caves - most caves and mines in Wisconsin aren't affected," said Osterndorf.

There are approximately 120 known bat hibernacula in Wisconsin. Of these, fewer than 20 are routinely used by cavers and approximately 12 are public caves. DNR plans to work with landowners to install bat gates or other physical barriers or provide cave closure signs and decontamination equipment. It will also work with cave and mine owners to create fungus control plans.

The department will hold hearings on the bat rules on October 26 and in multiple locations on November 29 beginning at 11 a.m. at the locations listed below. Written testimony will also be accepted through 4 p.m. on November 29.

  • October 26, Fitchburg - Glaciers Edge and Gathering Waters Rooms, DNR South Central Region Headquarters, 3911 Fish Hatchery Road,
  • November 29
    • Green Bay - Green Bay State Office Building, Room 618, 200 North Jefferson St.
    • Madison - The Pyle Center, Room 315, 702 Langdon St.
    • Eau Claire - Division of State Facilities, Eau Claire State Office Building, Room 139, 718 W Clairemont Ave.
    • Wausau - UW Marathon County, Room 218, 518 S. 7th Ave.

The proposed rules and fiscal estimates may be reviewed and comments electronically submitted at the following Internet site: http://adminrules.wisconsin.gov. Written comments on the proposed rule may be submitted via U.S. mail to Stacy Rowe, Bureau of Endangered Resources, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707 or by email to stacy.rowe@wisconsin.gov.

The public hearings include revisions to ch. NR 40, Wis. Adm. Code related to white-nose syndrome management, listing the fungus, Geomyces destructans, as a prohibited invasive species in s. NR 40.04(2), Wis. Adm. Code, and listing four cave bat species as threatened in s NR 27.03(3), Wis. Adm. Code.

White-nose syndrome is a devastating disease of bats. It gets its name from a white fungus that grows on nose, ears, muzzles and wings. Scientists say the disease can be transmitted from bat to bat or to bats from a cave that has been infected, likely from a human introduction on shoes or equipment. It kills up to 90 to 100 percent of bats in infected caves or mines used as hibernacula.

For more information see the Saving Wisconsin Bats page of the DNR website.

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Last Revised: Friday, October 15, 2010