Commissioners hear concerns about the northern long-eared bat

Cook County Assessor/Land Commissioner Betty Schultz presented commissioners with information she had received about the plight of the northern long-eared bat at the commissioners’ May 13 meeting.

Schultz told the commissioners that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is considering listing the northern long-eared bat as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Schulz said, “This is something that should be on our radar.”

 According to the FWS, the bats are suffering from white-nose syndrome a disease first observed in New York in 2006, but has since spread to the Midwest and Southwest. Since the discovery of the disease, 99 percent of the bats have disappeared in the Northeast. Some really bad news is that the disease was recently found in bats wintering in the Tower-Soudan underground mine on the Iron Range.

However, if this ruling is enacted to protect the bats, it could have a disastrous effect on loggers, sawmill owners, and construction companies during the summer months when bats are in their summer habitat and spend time roosting underneath cavities or in bark of both live and dead trees, caves and mines, and in structures like barns or sheds.

Loggers could be most affected because one of the provisions in the ruling is to prohibit cutting of bat habitat during the bat’s maternity season, April 1 to September 30. No trees larger than 3 inches in diameter could be cut during the summer under the rules proposed by the FWS.

Minnesota’s DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr has joined with natural resources officials from Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana in asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delay its plan to protect the bat because the proposed restrictions go too far and will greatly harm the forest industry.

The FWS will make its final decision on the northern long-eared bat at the end of October.