A federal lawmaker is speaking out against new protections for a wildlife species, saying the rules in turn threaten to harm forestry industries like logging.
U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., reacted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to grant “threatened” status to the northern long-eared bat on Wednesday, saying the move threatens to “lock up lands and impede commerce” by restricting some logging and tree removal operations within the animal’s habitat.
Thompson said instead, “The Service needs to go back to the drawing board and focus on new ways to treat and contain the spread of the real issue facing the Northern Long-Eared Bat, White Nose Syndrome,” referring to the disease that has killed millions of the bats since first being discovered in 2006, prompting Wednesday’s federal status decision.
The disease is believed present in bat colonies in 28 of the 37 states where the species lives, the Associated Press reports.
The AP also says federal authorities stopped short of listing the animal as endangered, meaning it is not currently believed to be in danger of extinction.
In announcing the decision Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called the species a “critical component of our nation’s ecology and economy.”
In a statement, director Dan Ashe said the animals play a key role in insect control and that “we lose them at our peril.”
In an effort to encourage breeding and rebuild bat populations, newly afforded protections under the “threatened” listing could include restrictions on logging and tree removal activities in places where the bats spend warmer months.
Opponents say resulting economic disruptions are guaranteed, while claiming improvements in bat populations are not.
Dan Naatz, senior vice president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, echoed Thompson in telling the AP that “Rather than listing the bat and limiting development, the Fish and Wildlife Service should work toward finding a solution to this deadly disease, while ensuring energy development, environmental stewardship, species conservation, and economic growth can thrive together across the nation.”
Thompson is also calling on the Fish and Wildlife Service to clarify which activities will be exempt from the restrictions, while urging them to consider exemptions for a wider range of activities and industries.
His suggestions include broad forest management, timber harvesting, oil and gas development, mining, agriculture, and construction of commercial and residential buildings.
“The ruling announced today by the Fish and Wildlife Service does nothing to clarify which activities would be exempt under this interim rule,” Thompson said. “With no exemptions for activities unrelated to population losses, this broad listing will have significant consequences for a wide range of economic sectors across Pennsylvania, as well as the additional 38 states.”