October 5, 2010
EDITOR'S ADVISORY: Public hearings on the emergency and permanent rule proposals to list four cave bat species as threatened and on the emergency and permanent rule proposals to list the white-nose syndrome fungus as a prohibited invasive species have been rescheduled to October 26 and November 29. See an updated news release on this proposal.
MADISON - Four species of cave bats would be listed as threatened species under state law and the fatal disease spreading across the country that is putting them at risk would be listed as a prohibited invasive species under two separate proposals that will be the subject of public hearings across the state later this month.
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 enclosures where bats gather during the day and over winter, known as hibernacula.
The disease has spread across 14 states and two Canadian provinces in just three years, and is currently 200 to 300 miles from Wisconsin's borders, well within the 280-mile migrating range of bats. Wisconsin has the largest concentration of bats in the upper Midwest. The most common Wisconsin bat - the little brown - is particularly susceptible to the disease and faces extinction.
"We're acting quickly to meet this extinction threat head on and deal with it," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank. "The disease could be in detected in Wisconsin caves this winter, so we need to take action now to slow the spread and to conserve as many bats as possible."
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.
The four bat species added to the Wisconsin threatened species list include the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), and eastern pipistrelle (Perimyotis subflavus).
The department has been establishing volunteer agreements with hibernacula owners, holding stakeholder meetings, working with volunteer monitors, and implementing an education and outreach program, according to Dave Redell, a bat ecologists with the DNR Bureau of Endangered Resources.
As a part of listing the four bat species as threatened, the department is also proposing to issue a broad permit and authorization to cover the "incidental taking" of cave bats that may occur during certain activities under section 29.604 of the Wisconsin Statutes. Incidental take refers to the unintentional loss of individual endangered or threatened animals or plants that does not put the overall population of the species at risk.
This permit would allow for the incidental taking of state listed cave bats that may occur as a result of specific public health concerns, bat removals, building demolitions, forestry activities, bridge demolitions, miscellaneous building repairs and wind energy development projects throughout the state.
Conservation measures that will minimize adverse effects on cave bats are included in a conservation plan and will be incorporated into the finalized Broad Incidental Take Permit and Authorization. Copies of the conservation plan, jeopardy assessment, and background information on the listed cave bat species are available on the Incidental Take page of the DNR website or upon request from Rori Paloski, Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Endangered Resources, 101 South Webster, Madison, WI 53707.
The white-nose syndrome fungus, Geomyces destructans, would be added to the list of prohibited invasive species, allowing the department to effectively manage its spread and limit human transport. The invasive species rule bans the transportation, possession, transfer and introduction of invasive species that are listed as "prohibited," with certain exceptions.
"Listing these species before the disease has been detected in Wisconsin will help ensure we can develop appropriate conservation measures, such as the protection of refuge hibernacula, in place in the event that white-nose syndrome affects Wisconsin," says Redell.
The proposed rules and fiscal estimate may be reviewed and comments electronically submitted at the Wisconsin Administrative Rules website.
Public hearings on the emergency and permanent rule proposals to list four cave bat species as threatened and on the emergency and permanent rule proposals to list the white-nose syndrome fungus as a prohibited invasive species have been rescheduled to October 26 and November 29. See an updated news release on this proposal.
Following a brief informational presentation, public comments and statements will be accepted. The hearings will begin at 11 a.m. on the following dates at the locations listed:
Written comments on the proposed rule changes may be submitted until Nov. 29, 2010 via U.S. mail to Stacy Rowe, DNR Bureau of Endangered Resources, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707 or by email to [firstname.lastname@example.org]. Written comments on the proposed Incidental Take permit and authorization should be sent by Nov. 4, 2010 to Rori Paloski, Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Endangered Resources, PO Box 2921, Madison, WI 53707.
For more information see the Saving Wisconsin Bats page of the DNR website.
FOR MORE INFORMATION on bats and white-nose syndrome contact Paul White (608) 267-0813, or Gregor Schuurman (608) 266-8736; on the incidental take permit and authorization contact Rori Paloski at 608-264-6040