Center for Biological Diversity

National Plan for Bat Disease Falls Short - Send Comments Today

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Since early 2006, bats in North America have been subject to a deadly, fast-spreading illness called white-nose syndrome. From its epicenter in upstate New York, the disease, associated with a newly identified fungus, has moved into bat colonies in Virginia and Tennessee, Ontario and Quebec, and most of New England. As of last spring, white-nose fungus was found as far west as western Oklahoma. Biologists believe it could spread to hibernating bats throughout the country, potentially decimating more than two dozen bat species in all.

The sudden bat crisis has been made worse by a slow, tentative response by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Both funding and agency coordination have been severely lacking; research has not kept pace with the spread of the disease, and state wildlife agencies have struggled in the absence of sufficient resources and national direction. Not until this fall did the Fish and Wildlife Service issue a plan for responding to the national wildlife catastrophe.
Bats can't wait that long.

The public has an opportunity to comment on the draft national plan now. Please weigh in now, telling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that real action, not conceptual goals, is what bats need if they are to survive.

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Please submit comments by December 28, 2010.

Photo: Little brown bat with white-nose fungus. Image by Ryan von Linden courtesy New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

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Unfortunately, the national white-nose-syndrome plan is lacking, little more than an outline of general goals and a list of working groups. While an important step, it's disappointing to bat advocates that it's taken this long to make such meager progress. What the Service calls the "implementation plan," which will presumably contain real action steps such as specific recommendations for research, disease containment and budgetary needs, is likely many months down the line -- or longer.

Scientists estimate that more than a million bats have died due to white-nose syndrome over four years' time. Each year, those million bats would have eaten the equivalent of approximately 700 tons of insects, including pests that plague farmers' crops. Now, the ecological balance that bats helped to maintain is at risk, and the loss of bats could have ripple effects that we cannot yet fully predict and could be felt for many years to come. And the disappearance of bats themselves, such marvels of evolution, is in itself a great tragedy.